Neuroscience Researchers’ Paper Cited

Issue Date: 
January 22, 2007

Some people might question whether blood pressure is under the brain’s control, but researchers in the Department of Neuroscience in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences have reason to believe it is. They are investigating how the brain’s neurons influence cardiovascular function. If they can untangle how the two interact, better drugs could be developed to treat high blood pressure.

Pitt neuroscience professor J. Patrick Card and Alan Sved, professor and chair of the department, and their colleagues reported in a recent paper on how they developed a new technique to decipher the connections of a group of neurons in a part of the rat brain stem known to influence cardiovascular function. The researchers developed a virus that causes these neurons, known as C1, to express a protein not ordinarily present in the rodent brain. This protein can therefore be used to define the pathways through which C1 neurons exert their influence.

Card and Sved’s research demonstrates that C1 neurons are an important component of the brain circuitry that regulates bodily functions like blood pressure. An added benefit of their novel experimental approach is that it can be applied to the study of other functionally defined brain circuits.

Their findings were published in the Dec. 10, 2006, issue of the Journal of Comparative Neurology. The paper was given a high recommendation by “Faculty of 1000 Biology,” a Web site where an international group of prominent researchers link to papers they find particularly noteworthy. The recommender wrote: “This is an interesting example of the use of a viral vector in neuroanatomy.”

Development of this technology was supported by the Center for Neuroanatomy with Neurotropic Viruses, a national resource at Pitt funded by the National Institutes of Health and codirected by Card and Peter Strick, professor of neurobiology and psychiatry in Pitt’s School of Medicine.