B.S. (Hons), University of British Columbia
Research in the Huxtable laboratory focuses on the neural control of breathing (the central brainstem and spinal cord networks), with a specific focus on how stressors (throughout the body and/or brain) undermine breathing. Breathing is a “simple”, rhythmic motor behaviour essential to maintaining life and homeostasis of blood gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide). The respiratory system begins generating episodic breathing rhythms in the womb and more regular rhythms abruptly at birth to begin exchange of blood gases, where it remains active until death. Despite the necessary robustness of the system, it is not a hardwired, immutable system even in adulthood. The respiratory system must be plastic (learn from previous experiences) and adapt to changes in state (sleep, wake), activity, aging, and disease or injury. The goal of Huxtable laboratory is to understand how the unstable respiratory network of premature or newborn infants are affected by early life stressors, including inflammation and drugs of abuse (such as opioids). Additionally, our research group has shown a vulnerability of respiratory plasticity (a long-term change in respiratory motor output) in adults to inflammation. The current focus of our research is on how early life stressors during the perinatal period alters long-term respiratory network function and motor plasticity acutely and chronically into adulthood. In particular, we are interested in how these early life stressors alter and change how distinct cell types within the central nervous system (neurons, astrocytes, and microglia) develop and communicate with each other to coordinate breathing. Research in the Huxtable laboratory combines concepts from neuroscience, respiratory physiology, neurodevelopment and the immune system to answer basic science questions.