Tracy Baker

Position title: Professor, Department of Comparative Biosciences


Phone: (608) 890-2964

Tracy baker headshot


Comparative Biosciences


M.S. in Biology, University of Texas, Arlington, TX, USA
Ph.D. in Neuroscience, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA
Postdoctoral in Neuroscience, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA

Research Description:

The fundamental interest of my laboratory is on the homeostatic regulation of breathing, particularly endogenous mechanisms that ensure ongoing respiratory neural activity throughout life. We were the first to show that inspiratory motor neurons are exquisitely sensitive to reductions in respiratoryrelated synaptic inputs, even in the absence of changing blood gases. We found that reductions in respiratory neural activity trigger mechanisms of plasticity within inspiratory motor neurons innervating the diaphragm and upper airway, which proportionally strengthens inspiratory motor output and makes it harder to trigger the next apnea. Our work suggests that respiratory neurons may be endowed with an inherent ability to defend a target setpoint of neural activity that produces adequate and stable inspiratory motor output. We have three broad research directions: 1) cellular/synaptic mechanisms and regulatory constraints underlying plasticity induced by reductions in respiratory neural activity and the physiological role for such plasticity in preventing central apnea/hypopnea, 2) the impact of chronic intermittent hypoxia during pregnancy on the health of the adult offspring, and 3) microglianeuron communication in the neural control of breathing. A multidisciplinary approach is used, including: neurophysiology in anesthetized rats; measurements of sleep, ventilation and respiratory muscle activity in unanesthetized rodents; neuropharmacology; immunohistochemistry; RNA interference (one of the first to successfully apply this technology in vivo).

Research Key Words:

Spinal Homeostatic Plasticity, Respiratory Physiology, Sleep Apnea, Neurophysiological Consequences of Intermittent Hypoxia, Homeostatic Regulation

Link to Lab Website

Link to Publications