Loneliness And Social Isolation – An Epidemic

Guest blog by: Suma Durga Bommasani, College of Computing graduate student

Humans are social creatures as we are wired to interact and connect with others. However, over time we have become more isolated. Loneliness has become a serious public health concern that affects people of all ages, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds in the United States. A new advisory report by the United States Surgeon General titled “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation” has shed light on the severity of this problem, showing that loneliness has a higher incidence rate than common medical conditions like smoking, obesity, and diabetes. Even though social isolation and loneliness have a considerable impact on individual health and society, only 20% of people consider it to be a serious problem.

As described in the report, about 1 in 2 adults experience loneliness. Loneliness has been linked to a higher risk of dementia, as well as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and mental health conditions. With a higher-than-average proportion of older individuals, this issue is of particular concern for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan region. Additionally, social isolation and loneliness among children and adolescents, which accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, increases the risk of anxiety and depression.

Experts highlight the critical need to implement strategies to build social interactions and boost health, safety, and well-being, as social ties are a fundamental human need. To address this serious issue, a national strategy with six main pillars has been presented, with the goal of building an integrated approach to improving community and social connectivity.

Individuals can prioritize their personal well-being by staying in touch with a varied network of people, limiting their use of social media, obtaining professional guidance when necessary, and expressing gratitude to others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “How Right Now” platform provides some helpful resources for people currently experiencing loneliness. Parents and caregivers can positively affect the lives of children and adolescents by actively engaging with them, highlighting the value of social connections, and monitoring online activity. Getting assistance from mental health and medical professionals can also help with the behavioral alterations connected to loneliness. Educators can build in social connection content to health curricula and help to foster a sense of belonging in the classroom. Local organizations and businesses also play an important role in establishing social connection by introducing programs that increase social contact and bring community members together.

We can all contribute to strengthening social connections. This basic toolkit from the National Institutes of Health has some great examples for improving your social health. Even something as simple as reaching out to a friend, family member, or neighbor to say hi or to invite them for a short walk can help. By coming together to address social disconnection and loneliness, we can work towards building healthier and stronger communities.

Federal Resources

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Our Epidemic of Loneliness Social Isolation

https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-social-connection-advisory.pdf

https://www.hhs.gov/surgeongeneral/priorities/connection/index.html?utm_source=osg_redirect&utm_medium=osg_redirect&utm_campaign=osg_sg_gov_connection

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“How Right Now” platform

https://www.cdc.gov/howrightnow/emotion/loneliness/index.html

National Institutes of Health

Social Wellness Toolkit

https://www.nih.gov/health-information/social-wellness-toolkit

Campus Resources

Michigan Tech University Center for Student Mental Health

The Center for Student Mental Health and Well-being provides a wide array of resources for students to ensure mental and physical well-being.

www.mtu.edu/well-being

National Resources

American Psychological Association (APA)

APA provides resources on workplace well-being, stress management, and mental health

www.apa.org

American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)

AARP provides various resources for older adults, including information on social connection, loneliness, and community engagement

www.aarp.org

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)

AACAP offers resources on children’s mental health, including loneliness and social isolation https://www.aacap.org

Local Resources

Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress (UPCAP)

UPCAP offers classes and workshops across the U.P. for disease prevention and management, and general wellness

www.upcap.org/program/wellness-programs

Recent KIP Graduate Published in “Frontiers in Physiology”

Isaac Wedig, PhD

Dr. Isaac Wedig, who earned his PhD in Integrative Physiology in Spring 2023, had his dissertation manuscript published by Frontiers in Physiology. The article is titled “Blood Flow Restriction as a Potential Therapy to Restore Physical Function Following COVID-19 Infection.” It was included as a part of a special Research Topic on “Intervention for Prevention, Management of and Rehabilitation from COVID-19.” Learn more about Isaac’s research by reading the introduction below or the full article on Frontiers in Physiology‘s website.

KIP Students Help the Michigan Physiological Society Celebrate at 10th Annual Meeting

Michigan Tech’s attendees gathered at the 10th Annual Michigan Physiological Society Meeting. From left to right: Derrick Simet, Haley Marchese, Abigail Brooks, Isaac Lennox, Greg Miodonski, Kyle Wehmanen, and Dr. Steve Elmer.

A group of Michigan Tech students and faculty attended the 10th Annual Meeting of the Michigan Physiological Society (MPS) on June 26 – 27th at Alma College. The presence of Michigan Tech was prominent as students and faculty from two departments gathered for this notable 10th anniversary of the meeting. Several graduate students from the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology (KIP), including Isaac Lennox and Abby Brooks, both master’s students, as well as Greg Miodonski and Kyle Wehmanen, both doctoral students, showcased their physiology-related research and outreach projects through captivating presentations. Joining them were undergraduate students Derrick Simet and Haley Marchese, and Dr. Robert Larson from the Department of Biological Sciences (BioSci), who also shared their research. Even more noteworthy, four of these students – Isaac, Greg, Haley, and Kyle – received recognition and awards for their outstanding presentations.

The first day of the meeting was marked by a keynote presentation by Dr. Pablo Ortiz from Henry Ford Hospital. He discussed the role of emerging research technologies that will lead to exciting discoveries in the field using fantastic examples from his own research involving kidney function. In the evening, there was a special presentation featuring the current and former presidents of the MPS. Among them was Dr. Steve Elmer, the current MPS president and faculty member from the KIP department at Michigan Tech, as well as former KIP faculty members and MPS presidents Dr. John Durocher and Dr. Jason Carter. The first day festivities concluded with an exhilarating physiology trivia quiz competition, where eight teams of students from universities around the state competed against each other, facing challenging physiology questions. The Michigan Tech trivia team (Abby, Derrick, Haley) represented the university well and certainly had a lot of fun!

The second day of the meeting brought another highlight, the captivating ‘Living History’ lecture delivered by Dr. Sue Barman, a respected colleague from Michigan State University and past president of the American Physiological Society. Dr. Barman shared her inspiring journey to success, recounting her experiences from a young girl to a distinguished professor. She also imparted valuable advice to aspiring students and professionals, emphasizing the importance of staying true to oneself and persevering in the face of adversity. There was also a great breakout session encouraging professional development with collaborative presentations on physiology careers in industry, teaching pedagogy with emerging artificial intelligence tools, and science policy in our governments. Finally, the students from Michigan Tech conducted a special edition of their UP & Moving workouts early in the morning, showcasing their ongoing initiative to promote physical activity on campus and within their community.

In summary, the 10th Annual Michigan Physiological Society meeting proved to be a resounding success for both Michigan Tech students and faculty members. The meeting provided a perfect blend of learning, networking, and fun for all attendees, leaving lasting memories. One of the students even had the unforgettable experience of crossing the Mackinaw Bridge for the first time and again a second time on the way home. Congratulations to all the student presenters who are already eagerly looking forward to the 11th annual meeting next year!

Finally, a special thank you to Dr. William Cooke and the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology for supporting the students with their trip, as well as serving as one of the major sponsors for the meeting. — Written by Kyle Wehmanen, PhD Student

The poster presented by Abby Brooks outlining the importance of physical activity promotion in rural areas, such as Houghton, Michigan. One of the strategies implemented by the KIP department to combat physical inactivity is free, live guided workouts available weekly on www.upandmoving.org

KIP Alumni News

Dr. Steve Short graduated from Michigan Tech in 2010 with a dual bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and Biological Sciences. After going to earn his doctorate in physical therapy, he joined the NBA’s Denver Nuggets as a physical therapist and assistant strength and conditioning coach. He currently services as the Vice President of Sports Medicine for the franchise. Read more about Dr. Short’s career path and his time as a standout MTU quarterback on the Iron Mountain Daily News’ website.

Abbie Laajala, who graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Sports and Fitness Management, has been promoted to Associate Athletic Director at Lake Superior State University. She has been working at LSSU since 2016. Read the entire announcement on LSSU’s website for more details about how Abbie made her way through the ranks to her new position.

Michigan Tech University Recognized as a Silver Level Exercise is Medicine® On Campus

Michigan Tech is among 156 campuses honored worldwide.

Michigan Tech University is one of only 156 universities and colleges around the world to be honored by Exercise is Medicine® for its efforts to create a culture of wellness on campus. Students and faculty that deliver the “UP and Moving” Program housed in the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology helped the university to earn a silver level designation from the Exercise is Medicine® On Campus (EIM-OC) program.

From left to right: Dr. Neil Peterson (EIM-OC Committee Co-Chair), Dr. Carrie Davidson (EIM-OC Committee Co-Chair), Isaac Lennox (KIP master’s student), Dr. Isaac Wedig (recent KIP PhD graduate), Kyle Wehmanen (KIP PhD student), Dr. Robert Sallis (former president of ACSM)

“We are thrilled to recognize these campuses’ commitment to make movement a part of daily campus culture and give students the tools to cultivate physical activity habits that will benefit them throughout their lives,”said Robyn Stuhr, Vice President of Exercise is Medicine. “These campus programs are nurturing future leaders who will advance a key tenet of Exercise is Medicine®: making physical activity assessment and promotion a standard in health care.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults engage in at least 150 min of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity each week along with two days of muscle strengthen activities. To facilitate physical activity, the UP and Moving program offers free virtual home-based workouts to keep students, staff, faculty, and community members active. The home-based workouts do not require any specialized equipment and are easily adapted to fit a wide range of ages and ability levels. The live workouts are also recorded and available to watch anytime on the program’s website.

The UP and Moving Program was created in 2020 by a team of graduate students supervised by Steven Elmer, Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology. Workouts are led by students and include both aerobic exercise (i.e., walking) and muscle strengthening exercise (i.e., weightlifting). Abby Brooks, a master’s student in kinesiology and UP and Moving Coordinator, emphasized, “Engaging in regular physical activity helps improve overall physical health, as well as mental health and well-being.”

EIM-OC calls upon universities and colleges to promote physical activity as a vital sign of health and encourages students, staff, and faculty to work together to improve the health and well-being of the campus community. EIM-OC launched its recognition program in 2014 to honor campuses for their efforts to create a culture of wellness. Schools earn gold, silver, or bronze status based on their activities. Of the 156 campuses recognized this year, 73 received gold, 60 silver, and 23 bronze. All gold, silver, and bronze campuses will be recognized on June 1 as part of the 2023 Exercise is Medicine World Congress, held in conjunction with the American College of Sports Medicine’s Annual Meeting.

As a silver level campus, the UP and Moving program has helped engage students, staff, and faculty in educational and wellness initiatives and make movement part of the daily campus and community culture. “An important next step for reaching gold level status is for the UP and Moving program at Michigan Tech to partner with local health care providers to establish physical activity as a health vital sign,” explained Isaac Lennox, a master’s student in kinesiology and UP and Moving coordinator. More information about the UP and Moving program can be found on their website.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) co-launched Exercise is Medicine® in 2007 with the American Medical Association. The ACSM, the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world, continues to manage this global health initiative, which seeks to make physical activity assessment and promotion a standard in clinical care, connecting health care with evidence-based physical activity resources for people everywhere of all abilities. Exercise is Medicine® is committed to the belief that physical activity promotes optimal health, is integral in the prevention and treatment of many medical conditions and should be regularly assessed and included as part of health care. To learn more about Exercise is Medicine® and view a complete list of EIM-OC recognized schools, visit their website

Sports Administration Race: Jamie Dompier’s Race Well-Run

Jamie Dompier with a giant NCAA logo
Dompier attended an NCAA Emerging Leaders Seminar in February 2020 at the NCAA HQ in Indianapolis!

Jamie Dompier ‘17 earned her Bachelor’s of Science degrees in Sports and Fitness Management and Management at Michigan Technological University. She has since embarked on a successful career in Sports Administration, currently serving as Assistant Director of Business Operations for Wisconsin Athletics. Prior to starting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison In September 2022, Dompier worked in the athletic departments at Virginia Commonwealth University and Texas A&M University. Here is an account of the race she has run.

Dompier Starts the Sports Administration Race at Michigan Tech

As a runner, Jamie Dompier knew where the finish line was and how to get there quickly and effectively. Her initial race plan was to study biological sciences and become a physician’s assistant in orthopedics or sports medicine. But as orientation at Tech neared, it seemed like the wrong race for her. “I realized while the health field is cool, it just didn’t feel like it was the right fit for me,” she said. “I still wanted to be involved in sports, though.”

Jamie Dompier
Jamie Dompier at Texas A & M in 2021

Recruited to run track for Michigan Tech, Dompier arrived on campus in the summer of 2013. She switched majors to sports and fitness management. And like most first-year students, she made another change. “I decided if I wanted to be in sports administration, I should have more of a business background. So that’s why I added a second degree in management,” she said. “For me, knowingly wanting to be in sports administration meant that I should have a broad business background so I can have a grasp on all aspects. The sports industry has everything from accounting/finance, marketing/promotions, sports medicine/athletic training/nutrition, compliance, human resources, development, etc. That was the reason why I got the two bachelor’s degrees.” The decision added an extra semester and some summer school to her graduation race and end goal of sports administration. But it was a wise decision in the long run.

An All-Around Training Program to Prepare for Sports Administration

Michigan Tech’s sports and fitness management degree program gives students a broad look at a growing industry (sports and fitness management jobs are growing at almost a 20% clip). Students get a glimpse into both the sports and fitness sides. “You took classes for sports management, like facilities, sports law, and sports administration. Those were the classes I really enjoyed,” she said. “And then there were these fitness classes, biomechanics, anatomy, physiology, and athletic training. And now they have sports finance, which I would have really loved. Tech allows you to specialize in one side or the other, but I think it’s still personally good knowledge to know and understand both sides.”

In track and field, having a good coach who has run and succeeded competitively is a big plus for the runner. The coach knows exactly what the athlete is experiencing or will experience and can help her prepare. Taking classes from sports professionals was a similar experience for Dompier.

“It was great having the athletic department staff teaching classes. They had industry knowledge. Hearing about their experiences in the real world was really applicable.”

Jamie Dompier ‘17

Two Internships as Impactful as Two-A-Day Training

Athletes gain significant benefits from two-a-day training, especially early in preparing for their season. Internships give students valuable applied learning in their chosen field. They hone the skills they will need after they graduate and can determine if a job or industry is going to be the right fit. The sports and fitness management degree requires one internship. Dompier did two!

In the summer of 2015, Dompier worked as the NCAA Compliance and Student-Athlete Services Intern, where she got to see the internal workings of an athletic department. She gained experience with NCAA student-athlete databases like Compliance Assistant and LSDBi. She created athletic grant renewals and revised the policies and procedures manual. Jamie developed online compliance forms using Front Rush software and the student-athlete code of conduct in PowerPoint. Finally, Dompier updated incoming freshmen student-athlete compliance forms. It offered a different perspective from her experience as a student-athlete.

She served as the Sports Intern in Wisconsin Dells at Woodside Sports Complex during her second internship. Dompier learned a great deal about event and facility management. She assisted sports directors and oversaw operations during soccer and lacrosse tournaments, and supervised evening soccer leagues. And she gained experience in sports finance, collecting league payments, revising contracts for future tournaments, and creating invoices for past tournaments. “I’m glad I actually did two internships just to get more experience and see different areas,” Dompier said.

Jamie Dompier and three other female runners
Jamie Dompier and the Michigan Tech 2016 4×400 relay team at Grand Valley State after beating the school record they set the prior year. The record is 3:50.89.

Running Your Best Sports Administration Race Requires Networking

To be a successful runner, Dompier found it was up to her. Whether pushing herself in training, eating and hydrating well, and managing her time, her success was predicated on her decisions. She had to work at it. College was the same way for her— classwork, jobs, and internships. “It’s really up to you to make the most of it. You gotta go get it,” she said.

Experience has taught her the value of networking and internships. “This is an industry where you really have to put an effort in,” she said. “Get into it. Those internships do matter and building those connections, and those relationships really do matter, too. And I think that’s something that a lot of people take for granted and don’t realize how important they are to do.”

Looking back, she regrets not networking more when she was in high school and college. Her advice to aspiring sports and fitness management professionals: networking.

“So if you’re a senior in high school and you think that you know you want to be an athletic trainer or you want to be in sports medicine, or you want to be in communications for an athletic department, talk to the people at your local college or university. Growing up in Chassell, Tech was just down the road. It would have been easy to talk to people there,” she said.

“If there’s a school and it’s your dream to work there, look at their staff directory, reach out to somebody that’s in that department, and see if they can take some time to talk to you about their experiences, how they got there. Learn about them and what they do. And you know what? They’ll have suggestions specifically for you to get into that area,” Dompier said.

Graduate School Research Instrumental To Dompier’s Race Success

Virginia Commonwealth University 2019 Women's Indoor Track Team
Dompier and VCU’s women’s team celebrate their third-straight title at the 2019 A10 Indoor Championship.

Dompier found the business classes she took as an undergraduate to be invaluable. She felt she needed to get a graduate degree in sports administration or her MBA if she wanted to pursue a sports administration career. “When I was considering grad school, I was having a hard time deciding between pursuing a master’s for sport administration or an MBA,” Dompier said. I was pretty open about location as I thought it would be a great experience regardless of where I went so that didn’t concern me in my decision making.”

Dompier felt a graduate assistant (GA) position would be beneficial in getting a leg up on the competition when she entered the job market after graduate school. “This was important to me to gain experience and get some financial assistance,” she said. “Another contender was what type of master’s program I wanted to pursue (sports administration or MBA). I actually started searching for graduate assistant positions on the NCAA Job Market website. When I saw GA positions that looked interesting to me, I researched the university’s graduate programs to see what they had. I looked at the length of the programs, cost of attendance, etc. I also looked at their athletic department’s web page to learn more about the department—what NCAA division they were, their conference, what sports they had, and review their staff directories.”

Dompier Continues The Race at Virginia Commonwealth University

That’s when Dompier came across Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). “As I was searching, I saw that VCU had a bunch of positions posted (including as a GA in track and field, a role she would later get). Then I looked at their academic programs and found that VCU’s Center for Sport Leadership had a dual master’s program where I could pursue a Master of Sports Leadership and an MBA and finish both programs in two years. To me, it was a no-brainer.” 

As she started graduate school, Dompier was unsure of where in the sports industry she wanted to land. She took it one day at a time, enjoying her role as a GA. “I absolutely loved working with that coaching staff and primarily their sprints/jumps event groups,” she said. “During my first semester at VCU, I was taking the sports business class and that’s when it clicked for me – I wanted to be on the business side of sports. I met with the Assistant AD for Business Operations and he offered me a GA position which I started after my first spring semester. I am still so grateful for all of the folks at VCU for their support and how awesome they were to work with.”

 “If you want to go to grad school I would suggest you look early. Find some areas you want to go and definitely look for grad assistant positions, because that gives you all the more experience and that’s what I had at VCU, and I’m really grateful for it.”

Jamie Dompier ’17
Jamie Dompier and three other runners on an outdoor track
Jamie Dompier in the lead running a 200m sprint in 2016. Dompier holds the school record at 25.37.

Go for the Sports Administration Finish Line

Dompier sees a lot of potential for students choosing to study sports and fitness management. “If you’re a high school senior and you’re going into sports and fitness management, the world’s your oyster. You have a lot of potential to go in different directions, learn and experience a lot.”

Dompier has experienced much since her days at Tech. As a GA in the Athletic Department at VCU, she managed purchasing and travel. She worked with a variety of systems to ensure purchases complied with university, state, and NCAA policies and that expenses were reconciled with bank statements at the end of the month. 

Dompier started as a Business Coordinator at Texas A&M before her promotion to Assistant Manager of Internal Operations. Her responsibilities increased in the larger athletic department. She gained responsibilities in financial reporting and managed the department’s day-to-day operations of accounts payable. Other duties included the management of inventory processes and other accounting responsibilities.

Jamie Dompier and a friend dressed in Wisconsin red
Dompier and her very excellent boyfriend Derek taking in a University of Wisconsin football game.

At Wisconsin, Dompier oversees the daily management of the Ticket Office and UW Foundation revenue. She manages procurement and corporate card expenses for a number of sports and units which entails reviewing expense reports for accurate receipts; ensuring compliance with state, university, and NCAA rules and regulations; completing internal account coding; and reconciling against US Bank statements.

It’s been a race Dompier thinks any Michigan Tech sports and fitness management graduate can run and win if they want it enough. “If you really want to be in the sports industry, I mean, you really gotta go get it,” she said. “You can’t just expect to get into the industry. I mean, you really, you really do need to make a push for it.”

KIP Students Stay Active During Summer Break Presenting at National ACSM Annual Meeting

Isaac Lennox presents his research on the impact of “Exercise is Medicine-On Campus” at ACSM.
Kyle Wehmanen talks during a group session about his analysis of long-distance winter ultra-endurance racing.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting took place May 30-June 2, 2023 in Denver, Colorado.

In attendance were two KIP graduate students, Isaac Lennox (MS) and Kyle Wehmanen (PhD), along with recent PhD graduate Isaac Wedig. All three attendees were proud to present their recent research at the ACSM conference.

Isaac Lennox presented a poster from his master’s research focusing on the nationwide impact of the “Exercise is Medicine-On Campus” (EIM-OC) initiative. EIM-OC is a program run by the ACSM that promotes physical activity on college campuses and is a pillar of their continuing community outreach. Isaac L.’s work was very well received and garnered excitement and interest from other EIM-OC colleagues across the country.

Isaac Wedig gave a short, rapid-fire oral presentation on a portion of his doctoral research. He outlined his work with blood flow restriction (BFR) and exercise. Specifically, Isaac W. has built tools designed to help bridge the gap with BFR between research and practical usage in a clinical setting.

Finally, Kyle Wehmanen delivered a 10-minute talk as part of a group session on endurance athletes and events. He spoke about his ongoing analysis of long-distance winter ultra-endurance racing, including the 1000-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational which traverses the same course as the legendary dog-sled race.

Overall, the Michigan Tech crew had a fantastic showing at the 2023 ACSM Annual Meeting and are already looking forward to next year! — Written by Kyle Wehmanen, PhD student

Brothers Team Up to Provide Exceptional Physical Therapy Care on the Keweenaw

Blake Dupuis ’19 recently joined his brother Beau Dupuis ’18 as a physical therapist at Aspirus Outpatient Therapies. The Lake Linden natives hold Bachelor of Science degrees in Exercise Science from Michigan Tech and Doctorate of Physical Therapy degrees from Central Michigan University.

Read more about them in the Aspirus press release.

KIP Students Present at 2023 American Physiology Summit

Students and faculty from the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology (KIP) recently attended the 2023 American Physiology Summit in Long Beach, CA on April 20–23, 2023. PhD students Greg Miodonski, Sherry Chen, Kyle Wehmanen, and Isaac Wedig presented posters to their colleagues at the annual event.

Greg, a member of Dr. Qinghui Chen’s lab, did a poster presentation of his research project entitled “Exercise Augments Small Conductance Ca2+ -Activated Potassium Channel (SK) Function in the PVN of Sprague Dawley Rats to Reduce Sympathetic Outflow.” His poster was selected as “top 10% scoring abstracts” sponsored by APS Central Nervous Session (CNS). Read more about his research in his abstract below.

Congratulations to these students for a wonderful showing at the summit!

Greg Miodonski, Qinghui Chen, and Mingjun Gu at APS
Top row from left to right: Qinghui Chen (KIP faculty), Gregory Miodonski (KIP student); Ian Greenlund (KIP alum); Jeremy Bigalke (KIP alum), Robert Larson (BioSci faculty); John Durocher (former KIP faculty)
Bottom row from left to right: Mingjun Gu (KIP researcher), Sherry Chen (KIP student), Jennifer Nicevski (KIP alum), Jenny Shan (KIP faculty)

Greg’s Abstract:

“Exercise Augments Small Conductance Ca2+ -Activated Potassium Channel (SK) Function in the PVN of Sprague Dawley Rats to Reduce Sympathetic Outflow”

Gregory Miodonski, Jessica Bruning, Derrick Simet, Haley Ruiter, Christian Johnson, Mingjun Gu, Zhiying Shan, Qing-Hui Chen

Elevated sympathetic outflow is a key feature of cardiovascular disease (CVD) that worsens disease progression. Our lab has shown that SK channels expressed in the PVN play a crucial role in regulating neuronal activity and sympathetic outflow, and that SK channels become dysfunctional in rats fed a high salt diet. Exercise has been shown to be an effective treatment for reducing sympathoexcitation in CVD including hypertension and heart failure, but the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. We hypothesized that aerobic exercise would upregulate SK channel function in the PVN to reduce sympathetic nerve activity (SNA). To test this, 5–6 week old Sprague Dawley rats were randomly divided into sedentary (SED) and exercise (EXT) two groups and fed a 0.4% NaCl normal salt diet. Following acclimation, EXT groups ran on a motorized treadmill 5 days/week for 8-10 weeks. Conscious blood pressure was measured weekly via tail plethysmography. After 8-10 weeks, animals were anesthetized and underwent in vivo surgery to record the renal sympathetic nerve activity (RSNA) and mean arterial pressure (MAP) following PVN microinjection of the SK blocker, apamin (0.25mM, 60nL/side). The data showed that the RSNA response to PVN apamin was significantly enhanced in EXT rats compared with SED rats (320.8 ± 174.6 % baseline, n=9 vs 184.8 ± 143.1 % baseline, n=9; p = 0.02).  The corresponding ABP response to apamin was not significantly different in EXT rats compared with SED rats (20.40 ± 9.98 mmHg, n=9 vs 25.27 ± 9.97 mmHg, n=8; p = 0.1658). Our data indicates exercise enhances PVN SK channel function to reduce sympathetic outflow. This improvement of SK channel function may be one mechanism by which exercise reduces SNA in CVD including hypertension and heart failure. Support: 1R15HL145655 (Chen); 1R15 HL150703 (Shan); MTU Health Research Institute (HRI).

Greg Miodonski, PhD student
Kyle Wehmanen, PhD student, presented his project entitled “Teaching K-12 Students Using Jenga: The Impact of Health Behaviors on Community Health, Wellbeing, and Resilience.”
Not pictured, PhD student Isaac Wedig presented his research project entitled “”Predictors of Arterial Occlusion Pressure in the Lower-Body Across Commonly Used Cuff Widths.”
PhD student Sherry Chen’s research project is entitled “Brain-Derived Small Extracellular Vesicles from Dahl Salt-Sensitive Rats with High Salt Diet Induce Inflammation and Oxidative Stress.”
Sherry Chen with Dr. Jenny Shan