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James Lawler

James LawlerJames Lawler
Professor Emeritus
Ph.D., University of North Carolina (1973)

Phone: (865) 974-3328

Key words: Animal models of hypertension, behavioral stress, exercise, dietary salt intake, blood pressure, hemodynamics, renal function, brain neurochemistry, physiological reactivity, neural modeling, autonomic nervous system regulation.

Research Interests

Interactions of genetics and environment in the production of high blood pressure; physiological determinants of chronic blood pressure changes; role of kidney function in long-term blood pressure regulation; neural control over autonomic nervous system function.

Research statement

We have developed a new animal model for studying the interactions of genetics and the environment in producing high blood pressure. This new model is called the Lawler borderline hypertensive rat (BHR). It has one parent with high blood pressure and one parent with normal pressure. Both stress and a high salt diet cause chronic elevations in blood pressure in the BHR, but not in the normotensive rat. In addition, we have found that an exercise program can prevent stress-induced changes in blood pressure. We are involved in studying the mechanisms for these effects, and are focusing on interactions between the brain and kidney. We have shown the importance of the renal nerves and baroreflex in the chronic elevations in blood pressure. In addition, substantial changes occur in brain neurotransmitter levels in brainstem and hypothalamic nuclei known to play a role in blood pressure regulation. We continue to pursue the physiological mechanisms responsible for environmentally-induced changes in blood pressure.

  • President, Association of Heads of Departments of Psychology
  • Fellow, High Blood Pressure Research Council, American Heart Association
  • Fellow, Cardiovascular Section, American Physiological Society
  • NIH Research Career Development Award
  • Editorial Board, Hypertension
  • Editorial reviewer for 18 scientific journals
  • NIH, NSF, AHA, VA and NRC (Canada) Grant Reviewer (19 study sections)
  • UTK Chancellor's Faculty Research Scholar
  • UTK Science Alliance Faculty Research Incentive Award
  • National Institutes of Health Research Grant (1979-1993)
  • American Heart Association Research Grant (1988-1991)
  • American Heart Association Research Grant (1992-1994)
  • American Heart Association Research Grant (1994-1996)

Hensley, I.E., Lawler, J.E., Alemzadeh, R. Holshouser, S.J. (2001) Diazoxide effects on hypothalamic and extra-hypothalamic NPY content in Zucker rats. Peptides 22, 899-908.

Hensley, I.E., Lawler, J.E., Zheng, G-P, Li, S-G. (2001) Effects of a high salt diet on blood pressure responses to acoustic stimuli in borderline hypertensive rats (BHR). Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science 36, 275-292.

Brown, D.R., Li, S-G., Lawler, J.E., Randall, D.C. (1999). Sympathetic control of BP and BP variability in borderline hypertensive rats on high vs low salt diet. American Journal of Physiology 277: R650-R657.

Lawler, J.E., Edgemon, I.P. (1999). The borderline hypertensive rat (BHR): A model for studies of the role of the environment in hypertension. In R.M. McCarty, D.A. Blizard, and R.L. Chevalier (Eds), Development of the hypertensive phenotype: Basic and clinical studies. New York: Elsevier.

Li, S-G, Lawler, J.E., Randall, D.C., Brown, D.R. (1997). Sympathetic nervous activity and arterial pressure responses during rest and acute behavioral stress in SHR versus WKY rats. Journal of the Autonomic Nervous System 62: 147-154.

Lawler, J.E., Zheng, G-P, Li, S-G, Wang, C-H., Edgemon, I.P. (1996). Norepinephrine levels in discrete brain nuclei in borderline hypertensive rats exposed to compound stressors. Brain Research Bulletin 41: 87-92.

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