Autonomic Pharmacology

A computer reconstruction of sympathetic terminals and their vesicles, in close proximity to a smooth muscle cell

Investigating the physiology and pharmacology of the autonomic nervous system in the cardiovascular and urogenital systems.

Group lead

Dr Keith Brain

Dr Keith Brain

School of Biomedical Sciences
Senior Lecturer

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Our research group

The group explores the frontiers of Autonomic Neuroscience in order to identify new drug targets for therapeutic interventions, and to understand the side effects of drugs on autonomic nerves and their targets. We collaborate with colleagues from across the University (particularly in Chemistry), country (University of Oxford) and internationally (IIT Mumbai; University of Aarhus; University of Siena and Florida Atlantic University) to collaborate on a range of problems in this field. We specialize in innovative confocal imaging techniques, supplemented with computational modelling, electrophysiological and other methods, to tackle problems in the heart, blood vessels and urogenital organs (particularly the urinary bladder and vas deferens).

Current projects

  • The regulation of the noradrenaline transporter in the cardiovascular system (L. Cao and others)
  • Computational modelling of the electrical activity in the urinary bladder (in collaboration with Prof Rohit Manachanda, IIT Mumbai)
  • Cannabinoid regulation of autonomic transmission (L. Cao and others)
  • MRI probe development for Parkinson’s disease (S. Muzerengi and others)

Recent and selected publications

  • Cao, L.; Holmes, A.; Marshall, J.; Fabritz, L.; Brain, Keith L. (2020). "Dynamic monitoring of single-terminal norepinephrine transporter rate in the rodent cardiovascular system: a novel fluorescence imaging method". Autonomic Neuroscience, 223:102611. doi:10.1016/j.autneu.2019.102611.
  • Appukuttan, Shailesh; Brain, Keith L.; Manchanda, Rohit (2017). "Modeling extracellular fields for a three-dimensional network of cells using NEURON". Journal of Neuroscience Methods. 290: 27-38. doi:10.1016/j.jneumeth.2017.07.005.
  • Boersma, AJ; Brain, KL; Bayley, H (2012). "Real-time stochastic detection of multiple neurotransmitters with a protein nanopore". ACS nano. 6 (6): 5304-8. doi:10.1021/nn301125y.
  • Parker, LK; Shanks, JA; Kennard, JA; Brain, KL (2010). "Dynamic monitoring of NET activity in mature murine sympathetic terminals using a fluorescent substrate". British journal of pharmacology. 159 (4): 797-807. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2009.00574.x.
  • Brain, KL; Cunnane, TC (2008). "Bretylium abolishes neurotransmitter release without necessarily abolishing the nerve terminal action potential in sympathetic terminals". British journal of pharmacology. 153 (4): 831-9. doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0707623.


  • Principal Investigator: Sharon Muzerengi
  • Postdoctoral Researcher: Lily Cao