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posted on 20.05.2020, 04:22 authored by James H. Park, Jonathan Gorky, Babatunde Ogunnaike, Rajanikanth Vadigepalli, James S. Schwaber

Central coordination of cardiovascular function is accomplished, in part, by the baroreceptor reflex, a multi-input multi-output physiological control system that regulates the activity of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems via interactions among multiple brainstem nuclei. Recent single-cell analyses within the brain revealed that individual neurons within and across brain nuclei exhibit distinct transcriptional states contributing to neuronal function. Such transcriptional heterogeneity complicates the task of understanding how neurons within and across brain nuclei organize and function to process multiple inputs and coordinate cardiovascular functions within the larger context of the baroreceptor reflex. However, prior analysis of brainstem neurons revealed that single-neuron transcriptional heterogeneity reflects an adaptive response to synaptic inputs and that neurons organize into distinct subtypes with respect to synaptic inputs received. Based on these results, we hypothesize that adaptation of neuronal subtypes support robust biological function through graded cellular responses. We test this hypothesis by examining the functional impact of neuronal adaptation on parasympathetic activity within the context of short-term baroreceptor reflex regulation. In this work, we extend existing quantitative closed-loop models of the baroreceptor reflex by incorporating into the model distinct input-driven neuronal subtypes and neuroanatomical groups that modulate parasympathetic activity. We then use this extended model to investigate, via simulation, the functional role of neuronal adaptation under conditions of health and systolic heart failure. Simulation results suggest that parasympathetic activity can be modulated appropriately by the coordination of distinct neuronal subtypes to maintain normal cardiovascular functions under systolic heart failure conditions. Moreover, differing degrees of adaptation of these neuronal subtypes contribute to cardiovascular behaviors corresponding to distinct clinical phenotypes of heart failure, such as exercise intolerance. Further, our results suggest that an imbalance between sympathetic and parasympathetic activity regulating ventricular contractility contributes to exercise intolerance in systolic heart failure patients, and restoring this balance can improve the short-term cardiovascular performance of these patients.

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