Lead Investigator: Dr. Kyra Pyke
My interests focus on three interacting areas of human cardiovascular research: i) endothelial function, ii) autonomic function and iii) the physiological effects of psychosocial stress. The vascular endothelium is a single layer of cells that lines all of the blood vessels in the body. It exerts local control over vascular tone and also plays a key role in modulating atherosclerosis development. One branch of my research is aimed at i) improving our understanding of how the endothelium responds to changes in blood flow, ii) improving endothelial function assessment in humans, and iii) understanding how endothelial function changes with disease.
The sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system increases heart rate and causes vasoconstriction. Acute changes in sympathetic nervous activity occur during exercise and are essential for blood pressure regulation. In contrast, the chronically elevated sympathetic nervous activity observed in some disease states (e.g. congestive heart failure and sleep apnea) contributes to pathological vascular adaptations. My interests lie in understanding how acute and chronic sympathetic nervous activation influence vascular tone, compliance and endothelial function. Psychosocial stress is associated with the development of cardiovascular disease, although the physiological basis of this connection is not fully understood. Initially focused on basic, mechanistic questions, this research will lead to an investigation of the ability of stress reduction interventions (e.g. stress management counselling) to improve physiological measures of cardiovascular function and health.