Headshot photo of Virginia L. Brooks, Ph.D.

Virginia L. Brooks, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Chemical Physiology and Biochemistry, School of Medicine
  • Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences, School of Medicine


We study brain control of the autonomic nervous system and blood pressure, not only in normal individuals, but also the changes that occur with obesity and pregnancy. A recent focus is the actions and neurocircuitry by which metabolically relevant proteins and peptides, such as insulin, leptin, alpha-MSH, Neuropeptide Y, and angiotensin II, alter basal and baroreflex control of sympathetic nerve activity and heart rate. Our experimental strategies are generally integrative and range from acute and chronic measurements of blood pressure and sympathetic nerve activity in conscious and anesthetized rats and mice, brain nanoinjections, immunohistochemistry, standard molecular techniques, and most recently select hypothalamic expression of DREADDs (Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs) and manipulation of specific brain proteins via the use of select viral vectors.

Recent discoveries

Identification of the arcuate nucleus as the site at which insulin increases sympathetic nerve activity (Cassaglia et al. J.Physiol. 2011).

Identification of Neuropeptide Y in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus as a potent tonic inhibitor of sympathetic nerve activity (Cassaglia et al. J.Physiol. 2014).

We discovered profound sex differences in the sympathoexcitatory effects of leptin (Li et al. Hypertension 2013 and Shi and Brooks. J.Physiol. 2014).

Education and training

  • Degrees

    • B.S., 1972, Oakland University
    • Ph.D., 1978, University of Michigan

Areas of interest

  • Hypothalamic neurocircuitry
  • Sympathetic nervous system
  • Obesity, pregnancy, hypertension



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