Mary Rachael Lovett-Barr

George Washington University, Washington, Washington, D.C., United States

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Publications (11)41.25 Total impact

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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Spinal injury disrupts connections between the brain and spinal cord, causing life-long paralysis. Most spinal injuries are incomplete, leaving spared neural pathways to motor neurons that initiate and coordinate movement. One therapeutic strategy to induce functional motor recovery is to harness plasticity in these spared neural pathways. Chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) (72 episodes per night, 7 nights) increases synaptic strength in crossed spinal synaptic pathways to phrenic motoneurons below a C2 spinal hemisection. However, CIH also causes morbidity (e.g., high blood pressure, hippocampal apoptosis), rendering it unsuitable as a therapeutic approach to chronic spinal injury. Less severe protocols of repetitive acute intermittent hypoxia may elicit plasticity without associated morbidity. Here we demonstrate that daily acute intermittent hypoxia (dAIH; 10 episodes per day, 7 d) induces motor plasticity in respiratory and nonrespiratory motor behaviors without evidence for associated morbidity. dAIH induces plasticity in spared, spinal pathways to respiratory and nonrespiratory motor neurons, improving respiratory and nonrespiratory (forelimb) motor function in rats with chronic cervical injuries. Functional improvements were persistent and were mirrored by neurochemical changes in proteins that contribute to respiratory motor plasticity after intermittent hypoxia (BDNF and TrkB) within both respiratory and nonrespiratory motor nuclei. Collectively, these studies demonstrate that repetitive acute intermittent hypoxia may be an effective and non-invasive means of improving function in multiple motor systems after chronic spinal injury.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2012 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
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    F.J. Golder · D.D. Fuller · M.R. Lovett-Barr · S Vinit · D.K. Resnick · G.S. Mitchell
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Respiratory failure is the leading cause of death after cervical spinal injury. We hypothesized that incomplete cervical spinal injuries would alter respiratory pattern and initiate plasticity in the neural control of breathing. Further, we hypothesized that the severity of cervical spinal contusion would correlate with changes in breathing pattern. Fourteen days after C4-C5 contusions, respiratory frequency and tidal volume were measured in unanesthetized Sprague Dawley rats in a whole body plethysmograph. Phrenic motor output was monitored in the same rats which were anesthetized, vagotomized, paralyzed and ventilated to eliminate and/or control sensory feedback that could alter breathing patterns. The extent of spinal injury was approximated histologically by measurements of the injury-induced cyst area in transverse sections; cysts ranged from 2 to 28% of spinal cross-sectional area, and had a unilateral bias. In unanesthetized rats, the severity of spinal injury correlated negatively with tidal volume (R(2)=0.85; p<0.001) and positively with breathing frequency (R(2)=0.65; p<0.05). Thus, the severity of C4-C5 spinal contusion dictates post-injury breathing pattern. In anesthetized rats, phrenic burst amplitude was decreased on the side of injury, and burst frequency correlated negatively with contusion size (R(2)=0.51; p<0.05). A strong correlation between unanesthetized breathing pattern and the pattern of phrenic bursts in anesthetized, vagotomized and ventilated rats suggests that changes in respiratory motor output after spinal injury reflect, at least in part, intrinsic neural mechanisms of CNS plasticity initiated by injury.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2011 · Experimental Neurology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) is an incretin hormone released from the gut in response to food intake. Whereas GLP-1 acts in the periphery to inhibit glucagon secretion and stimulate insulin release, it also acts in the central nervous system to mediate autonomic control of feeding, body temperature, and cardiovascular function. Because of its role as an incretin hormone, GLP-1 receptor analogs are used as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. Central or peripheral administration of GLP-1 increases blood pressure and heart rate, possibly by activating brainstem autonomic nuclei and increasing vagus nerve activity. However, the mechanism(s) by which GLP-1 receptor stimulation affects cardiovascular function are unknown. We used the long-lasting GLP-1 receptor agonist Exendin-4 (Ex-4) to test the hypothesis that GLP-1 signalling modulates central parasympathetic control of heart rate. using a telemetry system, we assessed heart rate in mice during central Ex-4 administration. Heart rate was increased by both acute and chronic central Ex-4 administration. Spectral analysis indicated that the high frequency and low frequency powers of heart rate variability were diminished by Ex-4 treatment. Finally, Ex-4 decreased both excitatory glutamatergic and inhibitory glycinergic neurotransmission to preganglionic parasympathetic cardiac vagal neurons. these data suggest that central GLP-1 receptor stimulation diminishes parasympathetic modulation of the heart thereby increasing heart rate.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2011 · Cardiovascular Research
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is generally associated with a withdrawal of parasympathetic activity and heart rate increases; however, episodic vagally mediated heart rate decelerations also occur during REM sleep. This alternating pattern of autonomic activation provides a physiological basis for REM sleep-induced cardiac arrhythmias. Medullary neurons within the lateral paragigantocellular nucleus (LPGi) are thought to be active after REM sleep recovery and play a role in REM sleep control. In proximity to the LPGi are parasympathetic cardiac vagal neurons (CVNs) within the nucleus ambiguus (NA), which are critical for controlling heart rate. This study examined brain stem pathways that may mediate REM sleep-related reductions in parasympathetic cardiac activity. Electrical stimulation of the LPGi evoked inhibitory GABAergic postsynaptic currents in CVNs in an in vitro brain stem slice preparation in rats. Because brain stem cholinergic mechanisms are involved in REM sleep regulation, we also studied the role of nicotinic neurotransmission in modulation of GABAergic pathway from the LGPi to CVNs. Application of nicotine diminished the GABAergic responses evoked by electrical stimulation. This inhibitory effect of nicotine was prevented by the alpha7 nicotinic receptor antagonist alpha-bungarotoxin. Moreover, hypoxia/hypercapnia (H/H) diminished LPGi-evoked GABAergic current in CVNs, and this inhibitory effect was also prevented by alpha-bungarotoxin. In conclusion, stimulation of the LPGi evokes an inhibitory pathway to CVNs, which may constitute a mechanism for the reduced parasympathetic cardiac activity and increase in heart rate during REM sleep. Inhibition of this pathway by nicotinic receptor activation and H/H may play a role in REM sleep-related and apnea-associated bradyarrhythmias.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2010 · Journal of Neurophysiology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Plasticity is a fundamental property of the neural system controlling breathing. One frequently studied model of respiratory plasticity is long-term facilitation of phrenic motor output (pLTF) following acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH). pLTF arises from spinal plasticity, increasing respiratory motor output through a mechanism that requires new synthesis of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, activation of its high-affinity receptor, tropomyosin-related kinase B, and extracellular-related kinase mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling in or near phrenic motor neurons. Because intermittent hypoxia induces spinal plasticity, we are exploring the potential to harness repetitive AIH as a means of inducing functional recovery in conditions causing respiratory insufficiency, such as cervical spinal injury. Because repetitive AIH induces phenotypic plasticity in respiratory motor neurons, it may restore respiratory motor function in patients with incomplete spinal injury.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2010 · Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To examine the role of 5-HT2 receptors in the central cardiorespiratory network, and in particular the respiratory modulation of parasympathetic activity to the heart, we used an in vitro medullary slice that allowed simultaneous examination of rhythmic inspiratory-related activity recorded from hypoglossal rootlet and excitatory inspiratory-related neurotransmission to cardioinhibitory vagal neurons (CVNs) within the nucleus ambiguus (NA). Focal application of ketanserin, a 5-HT2 receptor antagonist, did not significantly alter the frequency of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic excitatory currents (EPSCs) in CVNs in control conditions. However, ketanserin diminished spontaneous excitatory neurotransmission to CVNs during hypoxia. The inhibitory action of ketanserin was on 5-HT3 mediated EPSCs during hypoxia since these responses were blocked by the 5-HT3 receptor antagonist ondansetron. In addition, a robust inspiratory-related excitatory neurotransmission was recruited during recovery from hypoxia. Focal application of ketanserin during this posthypoxia period evoked a significant augmentation of the frequency of inspiratory-related, but not spontaneous EPSCs in CVNs. This excitatory effect of ketanserin was prevented by application of the purinergic receptor blocker pyridoxal-phosphate-6-azophenyl-2',4'-disulfonic acid (PPADS). These results demonstrate 5-HT2 receptors differentially modulate excitatory neurotransmission to CVNs during and after hypoxia. Activation of 5-HT2 receptors acts to maintain excitatory neurotransmission to CVNs during hypoxia, likely via presynaptic facilitation of 5-HT3 receptor-mediated neurotransmission to CVNs. However, activation of 5HT2 receptors diminishes the subsequent inspiratory-related excitatory neurotransmission to CVNs that is recruited during the recovery from hypoxia likely exerting an inhibitory action on inspiratory-related purinergic signaling.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2009 · Neuroscience
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    Stéphane Vinit · Mary Rachael Lovett-Barr · Gordon S Mitchell
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Respiratory-related complications are the leading cause of death in spinal cord injury (SCI) patients. Few effective SCI treatments are available after therapeutic interventions are performed in the period shortly after injury (e.g. spine stabilization and prevention of further spinal damage). In this review we explore the capacity to harness endogenous spinal plasticity induced by intermittent hypoxia to optimize function of surviving (spared) neural pathways associated with breathing. Two primary questions are addressed: (1) does intermittent hypoxia induce plasticity in spinal synaptic pathways to respiratory motor neurons following experimental SCI? and (2) can this plasticity improve respiratory function? In normal rats, intermittent hypoxia induces serotonin-dependent plasticity in spinal pathways to respiratory motor neurons. Early experiments suggest that intermittent hypoxia also enhances respiratory motor output in experimental models of cervical SCI (cervical hemisection) and that the capacity to induce functional recovery is greater with longer durations post-injury. Available evidence suggests that intermittent hypoxia-induced spinal plasticity has considerable therapeutic potential to treat respiratory insufficiency following chronic cervical spinal injury.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2009 · Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology
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    P.M. MacFarlane · J.E.R. Wilkerson · M.R. Lovett-Barr · G.S. Mitchell
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The neural network controlling breathing exhibits plasticity in response to environmental or physiological challenges. For example, while hypoxia initiates rapid and robust increases in respiratory motor output to defend against hypoxemia, it also triggers persistent changes, or plasticity, in chemosensory neurons and integrative pathways that transmit brainstem respiratory activity to respiratory motor neurons. Frequently studied models of hypoxia-induced respiratory plasticity include: (1) carotid chemosensory plasticity and metaplasticity induced by chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH), and (2) acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH) induced phrenic long-term facilitation (pLTF) in naïve and CIH preconditioned rats. These forms of plasticity share some mechanistic elements, although they differ in anatomical location and the requirement for CIH preconditioning. Both forms of plasticity require serotonin receptor activation and formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). While the cellular sources and targets of ROS are not well known, recent evidence suggests that ROS modify the balance of protein phosphatase and kinase activities, shifting the balance towards net phosphorylation and favoring cellular reactions that induce and/or maintain plasticity. Here, we review possible sources of ROS, and the impact of ROS on phosphorylation events relevant to respiratory plasticity.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2008 · Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Acute intermittent hypoxia elicits a form of spinal, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)-dependent respiratory plasticity known as phrenic long-term facilitation. Ligands that activate G(s)-protein-coupled receptors, such as the adenosine 2a receptor, mimic the effects of neurotrophins in vitro by transactivating their high-affinity receptor tyrosine kinases, the Trk receptors. Thus, we hypothesized that A2a receptor agonists would elicit phrenic long-term facilitation by mimicking the effects of BDNF on TrkB receptors. Here we demonstrate that spinal A2a receptor agonists transactivate TrkB receptors in the rat cervical spinal cord near phrenic motoneurons, thus inducing long-lasting (hours) phrenic motor facilitation. A2a receptor activation increased phosphorylation and new synthesis of an immature TrkB protein, induced TrkB signaling through Akt, and strengthened synaptic pathways to phrenic motoneurons. RNA interference targeting TrkB mRNA demonstrated that new TrkB protein synthesis is necessary for A2a-induced phrenic motor facilitation. A2a receptor activation also increased breathing in unanesthetized rats, and improved breathing in rats with cervical spinal injuries. Thus, small, highly permeable drugs (such as adenosine receptor agonists) that transactivate TrkB receptors may provide an effective therapeutic strategy in the treatment of patients with ventilatory control disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, or respiratory insufficiency after spinal injury or during neurodegenerative diseases.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2008 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
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    Full-text · Article · Jan 2007
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    M R Lovett-Barr · G S Mitchell · I Satriotomo · S M Johnson
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Intermittent hypoxia induces 5-HT-dependent, pattern-sensitive long-term facilitation (LTF) of spinal respiratory motor output. We used a split-bath in vitro neonatal rat brainstem-spinal cord preparation to test whether: 1) intermittent spinal 5-HT exposure (without hypoxia) is sufficient to induce LTF in phrenic and intercostal inspiratory motor outputs; 2) LTF magnitude is greater in intercostal versus phrenic activity; and 3) phrenic and intercostal motor output exhibits differential pattern sensitivity to 5-HT application. With a barrier at spinal segment C1, 5-HT (5 muM) was applied episodically (3 min 5-HT, 5 min wash, x3) to the spinal cord (C2-L1) while recording inspiratory bursts in cervical (C4 or C5) and thoracic (T5 or T6) ventral roots. Episodic 5-HT application increased cervical and thoracic burst amplitudes to 136+/-22% and 150+/-22% of baseline, respectively, at 120 min post-drug (P<0.01). Continuous 5-HT application (5 muM, 9 min) had no effect on cervical burst amplitude at 120 min post-drug, but increased thoracic burst amplitude to 142+/-11% of baseline at 120 min post-drug (P<0.001). Methysergide pretreatment abolished both cervical and thoracic 5-HT-induced LTF. Quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and immunocytochemistry revealed that 5-HT(2A) and 5-HT(7) receptor subtypes (receptors known to influence LTF expression in adult rats) are expressed in ventral cervical and thoracic spinal cord with no differences in expression levels due to spinal segment or age. Thus, 5-HT is sufficient to induce spinal LTF in neonatal rats and differences in pattern sensitivity suggest heterogeneity in underlying mechanisms.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2006 · Neuroscience

Publication Stats

409 Citations
41.25 Total Impact Points


  • 2010-2011
    • George Washington University
      • Department of Pharmacology and Physiology
      Washington, Washington, D.C., United States
  • 2006-2011
    • University of Wisconsin, Madison
      • • Department of Comparative Biosciences
      • • Department of Medical Sciences
      Mississippi, United States