Flexibility in respiratory motor function is critical for human survival. A fundamental characteristic of the respiratory neural system facilitating this flexibility is the capacity to express neuroplasticity.

Defined as a persistent change in neural activity based on experience, neuroplasticity enables sustained changes in breathing output in response to physiological or environmental challenges across the lifespan. Although significant research has been directed towards identifying the cellular and molecular mechanisms of respiratory neuroplasticity, we know little about sex differences in these mechanisms or the extent to which endogenous sex hormones influence mechanisms of respiratory neuroplasticity.

Accordingly, the overall objective of Dr. Brendan Dougherty’s research program is to define how sex hormones influence respiratory function and the development of respiratory neuroplasticity. In this webinar, Dr. Dougherty presents data demonstrating that 17β estradiol, the primary neuroactive form of estrogen, is critical for the induction of respiratory neuroplasticity in both female and male rats. The implications of these data for study of inducible neuroplasticity in pre-clinical and translational models are also discussed.

Key Topics Include:

  • Define neuroplasticity in the context of respiratory motor function
  • Review how fluctuations in circulating sex hormones impact induction of respiratory neuroplasticity
  • Discuss the potential role of spinal estrogen signaling for gating the expression of respiratory neuroplasticity
  • Consider the implications of sex hormone signaling for the induction of plasticity in translational applications

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Assistant Professor
Rehabilitation Medicine
University of Minnesota

Dr. Dougherty is a Neurophysiologist and Physical Therapist in the Divisions of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science at the University of Minnesota. He is Principle Investigator of the Respiratory Physiology and Neuroplasticity Laboratory and teaches Gross Anatomy to University of Minnesota Doctor of Physical Therapy students.

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