AAS-Lundbeck Research Fellowship 2017


Congratulations to our 2017 AAS-Lundbeck Research Fellowship awardees.

Title: Sex-differences in sympathetic neural recruitment in elderly hypertension

Awardee: Dr. Mark Badrov

Mentor: Dr. Qi Fu

Summary: This research will test the hypothesis that sympathetic axonal recruitment is augmented during orthostatic stress in elderly hypertensive women. Four interrelated problems form the importance of this research: 1) Globally, hypertension remains a major public health concern and represents a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease-related morbidity and mortality; 2) Aging is accompanied by sympathetic nervous system dysregulation; 3) More elderly women than men have hypertension; and 4) Blood pressure control rates are markedly lower in elderly hypertensive women. Whether altered sympathetic neural recruitment during daily life stress, such as orthostasis or upright posture, plays a role in the higher rates of hypertension seen in elderly women remains unknown. To test our hypothesis, we plan to compare the magnitude and patterning of sympathetic action potential (AP) discharge during orthostatic stress in elderly normotensive and hypertensive men and women.

Title: Optical methods for the characterization of facial autonomic function

Awardee: Dr. Melissa Cortez

Mentor: Dr. K.C. Brennan

Summary: The craniofacial region is relatively neglected in current autonomic reflex testing. Yet changes in pupillary and trigeminovascular, in addition to cardiovascular autonomic regulation, have been demonstrated in several headache (HA) disorders and may serve as a basis for physiological distinction, generating insights into pathophysiology with important treatment implications. We have developed a novel non-invasive approach to the assessment of craniofacial autonomic function, including quantitative pupillometric indices and trigeminovascular reflex (TVR) assessment via optical imaging to extend the currently available standardized autonomic reflex screen (ARS). Migraine HA serves as an ideal candidate disease in which to test our expanded autonomic testing battery. Alterations in both cardiovascular and craniofacial measures have been demonstrated during and between migraine attacks. However, the findings have been mixed, generating equipoise that we hope to resolve. One possible reason could be that the severity and pattern of autonomic disruption in migraineurs evolves as the disease progresses. Yet a vast majority of studies do not formally assess disease burden. Our published and preliminary data show significant differences in TVR and pupillary responses between episodic (EM) and chronic migraine (CM; >2 HA/week) and from healthy, non-HA (NH) controls. Thus, migraine autonomic symptoms appear to scale with disease burden; this may explain the disparate results in the migraine literature. We propose a test of this overall hypothesis, utilizing standardized autonomic assessment paired with pupillometry and our novel optical TVR assessment, to quantitatively characterize features of cardiovascular and craniofacial autonomic physiology in migraine HA across the spectrum of disease severity.