Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)


Biomedical Sciences

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Jeffrey L. Ardell

Committee Members

Donald B. Hoover, Gregory A. Ordway, Krishna Singh, Thomas W. Ecay


The cardiac nervous system consists of nested reflex feedback loops that interact to regulate regional heart function. Cardiac disease affects multiple components of the cardiac nervous system and the myocytes themselves. This study aims to determine: 1) how select components of the cardiac nervous system respond to acute cardiac stress, including myocardial ischemia (MI) and induced neural imbalance leading to cardiac electrical instability, and 2) how neuromodulation can affect neural-myocyte interactions to induce cardioprotection. Thoracic spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is recognized for its anti-anginal effects and ability to reduce apoptosis in response to acute MI, primarily via modulation of adrenergic efferent systems. The data presented here suggest that cervical SCS exerts similar cardioprotective effects in response to MI, but in contradistinction to thoracic SCS, uses both adrenergic and cholinergic efferent mechanisms to stabilize cardiomyocytes and the arrhythmogenic potential. SCS potentially can use efferent and/or anti-dromically activated cardiac afferents to mediate its cardioprotection. Thoracic SCS mitigates the MI-induced activation of both nodose and dorsal root ganglia cardiac-related afferents, doing so without antidromic activation of the primary cardiac afferents. Instead, thoracic SCS acts through altering the cardiac milieu thereby secondarily affecting the primary afferent sensory transduction. In response to cardiac stressors, reflex activation of efferent activity modifies mechanical and electrical functions of the heart. Excessive activation of neuronal input to the cardiac nervous system can induce arrhythmias. Stimulation of intrathoracic mediastinal nerves directly activates subpopulations of intrinsic cardiac neurons, thereby inducing atrial arrhythmias. Neuromodulation, either thoracic SCS or hexamethonium, suppressed mediastinal nerve stimulation (MSNS)-induced activation of intrinsic cardiac neurons and correspondingly reduced the arrhythmogenic potential. SCS exerted its stabilizing effects on neural processing and subsequent effects on atrial electrical function by selectively targeting local circuit neurons within the intrinsic cardiac nervous system. Together these data indicate that neuromodulation therapy, using SCS, can mitigate the imbalances in cardiac reflex control arising from acute cardiac stress and thereby has the potential to slow the progression of chronic heart disease.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.

Included in

Cardiology Commons