Prof Douglas Corfield PhD

Professor of Medical Sciences

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Research interests

My research has two main components, each directed to a better understanding of the physiology and pathophysiology of cardiovascular and respiratory regulation in humans.  Dysfunction in these systems is directly related to morbidity and mortality in conditions such as chronic lung disease, sleep-disordered breathing and stroke.

The first component of my work has investigated the neural basis for the control of breathing in humans, using non-invasive measures of brain function (positron emission tomography – PET and functional magnetic resonance imaging - fMRI) alongside more ‘classical’ physiological approaches.   In particular, my studies have characterised the neurophysiological basis for the cortico-motor control of behavioural breathing - a hitherto poorly understood area of respiratory neuroscience- and have identified the principal brain areas associated with the perception of respiratory sensations – in particular with the sensation of dyspnoea, an important yet problematic clinical condition.  The aim of this work is to extend our current knowledge gained from healthy populations into clinically-relevant groups with cardio-respiratory problems.  The ultimate aim is to increase our understanding of the pathophysiology of dyspnoea and to inform patient management.

Most recently, with colleagues at Manchester University, I have begun to explore the neurophysiological basis of cough and the effects that cough may have on the autonomic nervous system

The second component of my work has addressed the interactions between breathing and the regulation of brain blood flow and brain function.  PET and fMRI measure indices of brain activity related to changes in brain blood flow. As breathing and brain blood flow are intimately linked, my research questions have required me to develop new MRI-based methodological and analytical approaches to assess neural activity during respiratory challenges and to measure brain blood flow.  In addition, I have investigated specific questions related to the control of the cerebral circulation and its integration with respiratory control. In particular, we have discovered striking changes in the brain blood flow responses to respiratory challenges during sleep – a condition in which abnormalities in breathing are most frequently manifest.  Further, we have identified structural changes, in the brains of patients with obstructive sleep apnoea, which may be key to understanding and reversing the functional deficits in this clinical group.

My work is cross-disciplinary project involving physiologists, imaging scientists and clinicians



Research and projects

No current projects are available for public display