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John D. Tompkins, PhD Email: email@example.comLab website → Bibliography →
I have a long-standing interest in the autonomic regulation of the cardiovascular system. As a cellular neurophysiologist, my main focus is on the cellular membrane properties of peripheral neurons which control the heart and vasculature. I routinely make intracellular and patch-clamp recordings from both intact and dissociated peripheral autonomic neurons. As a graduate student, I worked to identify the role of a sensory neuropeptide, substance P, at sympathetic ganglia in the increased sympathetic nerve activity of the spontaneously hypertensive rat. As a post-doc, I investigated the localization and role of the neuropeptide PACAP (pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide) in the regulation of membrane excitability at intrinsic cardiac neurons – cells residing on the surface of the heart which control every heartbeat. Currently, I am focused on identifying the specialized morphology, electrophysiology, and connectivity of sympathetic and parasympathetic neurons which control the heart - including neurons of the stellate and intrinsic cardiac ganglia. We use a combination of approaches including, electrophysiology, immunohistochemistry, confocal and functional imaging, as well as electron microscopy to identify unique subpopulations of these autonomic neurons. In addition to mapping out the basic structure and function of these peripheral neural circuits, we also aim to develop molecular approaches to target these cells for treatment of cardiac dysautonomias.