Photo of Shaun Morrison, Ph.D.

Shaun Morrison Ph.D.

  • (503) 494-1560
    • Professor of Neurological Surgery School of Medicine

Specific circuits within the CNS are dedicated to the maintenance of homeostasis and an optimal cellular environment through regulation of autonomic function. Disease states such as fever, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, autonomic hyperreflexia and cardiac arrhythmia are associated with altered regulation of the sympathetic outflow to cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular tissues. The Morrison lab's research uses electrophysiological and anatomical approaches to understand the functional organization, rhythmicities, developmental influences and pharmacology of the CNS circuits that regulate the sympathetic outflows controlling variables critical for homeostasis such as body temperature, energy expenditure, blood glucose, blood pressure, cardiac output and plasma catecholamines.We are currently pursuing three main areas of investigation in the rapidly growing field of autonomic neuroscience. The first concerns the regulation of the sympathetic outflow to brown adipose tissue in the rat as a model system for gaining insight into the central circuits involved in regulating energy metabolism and body temperature. The results of these studies will be relevant to altered thermoregulation occurring during fever and to the increasing public health problem of obesity, which can be viewed as an imbalance between energy intake and metabolism. We are also studying the CNS regulation of catecholamine release from the adrenal medulla, an important component of a variety of stress responses including hypoglycemia, hemorrhage, and exercise. The third area of research involves the organization of the medullary pathways regulating sympathetic outflow to the cardiovascular system. These experiments have indicated a novel source of excitatory input to the neural circuits that generate sympathetic outflow, a result which will contribute to our understanding of the elevated blood pressure in models of hypertension such as the spontaneously hypertensive rat. By addressing basic questions in autonomic neuroscience, we seek to understand the altered regulation of sympathetic outputs characteristic of several disease states.


  • Ph.D., University of Vermont, Burlington Vermont 1980


  • "Glycinergic inhibition of bat sympathetic premotor neurons in rostral raphe pallidus." American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology In: , Vol. 312, No. 6, 01.06.2017, p. R919-R926.
  • "Thermoregulatory inversion : A novel thermoregulatory paradigm." American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology In: , Vol. 312, No. 5, 30.05.2017, p. R779-R786.
  • "Medullary Reticular Neurons Mediate Neuropeptide Y-Induced Metabolic Inhibition and Mastication." Cell Metabolism  In: , Vol. 25, No. 2, 07.02.2017, p. 322-334.
  • "A high-fat diet impairs cooling-evoked brown adipose tissue activation via a vagal afferent mechanism." American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism In: , Vol. 311, No. 2, 01.08.2016, p. E287-E292.
  • "Hibernation, hypothermia and a possible therapeutic "shifted homeostasis" induced by central activation of a1 adenosine receptor (A1AR)." Japanese Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology In: , Vol. 36, No. 2, 01.04.2016, p. 51-54.
  • "Hibernation, Hypothermia and a Possible Therapeutic "Shifted Homeostasis" Induced by Central Activation of A1 Adenosine Receptor (A1AR)." Japanese Journal of Psychopharmacology In: , Vol. 36, No. 2, 01.04.2016, p. 51-54.
  • "Central control of body temperature [version 1; referees : 3 approved]." F1000Research In: , Vol. 5, 880, 2016.
  • "Central neural control of thermoregulation and brown adipose tissue." Autonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical In: , 08.09.2015.
  • "5-Hydroxytryptamine does not reduce sympathetic nerve activity or neuroeffector function in the splanchnic circulation." European Journal of Pharmacology In: , Vol. 754, 05.05.2015, p. 140-147.
  • "Central nervous system regulation of brown adipose tissue." Comprehensive Physiology In: , Vol. 4, No. 4, 01.10.2014, p. 1677-1713.
  • "Central neural regulation of brown adipose tissue thermogenesis and energy expenditure." Cell Metabolism  In: , Vol. 19, No. 5, 06.05.2014, p. 741-756.
  • "Autonomic regulation of brown adipose tissue thermogenesis in health and disease : Potential clinical applications for altering BAT thermogenesis." Frontiers in Neuroscience In: , No. 8 FEB, 14, 2014.
  • "Efferent projections of neuropeptide Y-expressing neurons of the dorsomedial hypothalamus in chronic hyperphagic models." Journal of Comparative Neurology In: , Vol. 521, No. 8, 01.06.2013, p. 1891-1914.
  • "Highlights in basic autonomic neurosciences : Central adenosine A1 receptor - The key to a hypometabolic state and therapeutic hypothermia?" Autonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical In: , Vol. 176, No. 1-2, 06.2013, p. 1-2.
  • "α2 adrenergic receptor-mediated inhibition of thermogenesis." Journal of Neuroscience In: , Vol. 33, No. 5, 30.01.2013, p. 2017-2028.
  • "Hypothalamic regulation of body temperature."  The Human Hypothalamus: Anatomy, Functions and Disorders. Nova Science Publishers, Inc., 2013. p. 312-341.
  • "Systemic leptin produces a long-lasting increase in respiratory motor output in rats." Frontiers in Physiology In: , Vol. 4 FEB, Article 16, 2013.
  • "Central activation of the A1 adenosine receptor (A1AR) induces a hypothermic, torpor-like state in the rat." Journal of Neuroscience In: , Vol. 33, No. 36, 2013, p. 14512-14525.
  • "Neural Control of Respiratory and Cardiovascular Functions."  Fundamental Neuroscience: Fourth Edition. Elsevier Inc., 2012. p. 749-766.
  • "A less invasive surgical approach for splanchnic nerve stimulation to treat obesity." Obesity Surgery In: , Vol. 22, No. 11, 11.2012, p. 1783-1784.
  • "Serotonin and blood pressure regulation." Pharmacological Reviews In: , Vol. 64, No. 2, 04.2012, p. 359-388.
  • "Central control of brown adipose tissue thermogenesis." Frontiers in Endocrinology  In: , Vol. 3, No. JAN, Article 5, 2012.
  • "Central Thermoregulation."  Primer on the Autonomic Nervous System. Elsevier Inc., 2012. p. 243-247.
  • "An orexinergic projection from perifornical hypothalamus to raphe pallidus increases rat brown adipose tissue thermogenesis." Journal of Neuroscience In: , Vol. 31, No. 44, 02.11.2011, p. 15944-15955.
  • "Central efferent pathways for cold-defensive and febrile shivering." Journal of Physiology In: , Vol. 589, No. 14, 07.2011, p. 3641-3658.
  • "Central Nervous System Regulation of Body Temperature."  Central Regulation of Autonomic Functions. Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • "2010 Carl Ludwig distinguished lectureship of the APS neural control and autonomic regulation section : Central neural pathways for thermoregulatory cold defense." Journal of Applied Physiology In: , Vol. 110, No. 5, 05.2011, p. 1137-1149.
  • "Central neural pathways for thermoregulation." Frontiers in bioscience : a journal and virtual library  In: , Vol. 16, No. 1, 01.01.2011, p. 74-104.
  • "Inhibition of brown adipose tissue thermogenesis by neurons in the ventrolateral medulla and in the nucleus tractus solitarius." American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology In: , Vol. 299, No. 1, 07.2010.
  • "A thermosensory pathway mediating heat-defense responses." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America In: , Vol. 107, No. 19, 11.05.2010, p. 8848-8853.

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