Human Physiology Laboratory


James Fisher
Associate Professor James Fisher

I am currently seeking highly motivated research students at undergraduate, masters and PhD level to join our team’s pioneering research into clinical and translational cardiovascular physiology. By bridging the gap between the work undertaken by academics using animal models and hospital-based clinicians, my laboratory seeks to provide new pathophysiological insights into cardiovascular conditions, such as hypertension, heart failure and atrial fibrillation, which are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality both globally and in New Zealand.

Projects in the Human Physiology Laboratory will be of interest to well-qualified students with a general interest in applied and clinical physiology, and a specific interest in the neural regulation of the heart and blood vessels.

Specific proposed projects are listed below, and could all be modified to suit Honours, Masters or PhD students. Please contact me directly on:



Cardiorespiratory control by the chemoreflex

An alteration in the sympathetic neural control of the heart and blood vessels is implicated in the initiation and progression of a number of cardiovascular diseases (e.g. hypertension, heart failure). This project seeks to better understand the role of the chemoreflex in elevating sympathetic activity in age and disease. These studies will help lay the groundwork for future investigations to determine novel therapeutic strategies, as current medication fails to normalise sympathetic tone.


Neural control of the circulation during exercise

Adjustments in the activity of our autonomic nervous systems permit us to undertake physical activity. However, patients in whom autonomic dysregulation is established (e.g., heart failure) suffer from skeletal muscle hypoperfusion, dyspnoea and premature fatigue upon exertion. This project will examine the mechanisms underlying the generation of group III and IV afferent signals arising from the exercising muscles and understanding the ensuing reflex autonomic and end-organ responses. Such studies are important in order to determine whether this afferent pathway can serve as a therapeutic target by which to improve exercise capacity and quality of life in certain patient groups.


Mechanisms determining cerebrovascular function

We are living during a time of unprecedented global population ageing, but increases in longevity have not been paralleled with reductions in morbidity. Old age is a major risk factor for conditions such as stroke and dementia. Atrial fibrillation, the most common sustained heart rhythm disorder, affects a large proportion of elderly individuals, and is associated with severe stroke. This project seeks to determine how the brain blood vessels are altered in healthy ageing and atrial fibrillation, and will consider the impact of potential therapeutic regimens (e.g., medications, nutritional strategies, exercise).