This story is from the category The Brain
Date posted: 03/12/2008
Some of the neural circuitry inside the heart and cardiovascular ssystem itself has been deciphered, showing how the nerve pathways form circuits and processing sub-systems that regulate blood pumping independently of the brain.
While much progress has been made over the years in understanding the body's master clock in the brain, the new study offers one of the first glimpses into the biological function of peripheral clocks in maintaining the circadian rhythms of tissues throughout the body.
The systems uncovered control the daily rise and fall of blood pressure and heart rate.
Tianxin Yang of the University of Utah and Salt Lake Veterans Affairs Medical Center are jointly responsible for the discoveries.
Circadian variations in blood pressure and heart rate are among the best-recognized circadian rhythms of physiology, Yang explained. In humans, there is a sharp rise in blood pressure before awakening, with the highest values around midmorning. Many cardiovascular events, such as sudden cardiac death, heart attack, and stroke display daily variations with an increased incidence in the early morning hours. It is suspected that those trends correlate with the morning surge in blood pressure.
While the new findings confirm a critical role for the heart's own clock, they don't rule out the possibility that this peripheral clock relies on the master clock seated in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the brain, Yang said. "It's possible there is communication between the SCN and the peripheral clock."
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