Alumnus honored in England for career of accomplishments

By Alex Lyda / September 2011

After 40 years, Dr. Jere Mitchell’s deep insight into the role of neural mechanisms that control blood pressure and heart rate during exercise and illness was celebrated where much of his work first flourished: Oxford, England.

At the recent annual meeting of The Physiological Society several researchers who have built their own careers out of Dr. Mitchell’s 56-year involvement in cardiovascular research conducted a symposium titled “Neural Control of the Circulation During Exercise.”

Dr. Jere Mitchell

Dr. Mitchell, Clinical Professor of Physiology, and a 1954 graduate of UT Southwestern, also was recognized by the Journal of Physiology for being one of its most cited authors. In his opening address to symposium attendees, he highlighted his work at the University of Oxford as a visiting senior scientist at the University Laboratory of Physiology from 1971 to 1972.

“The work I did at Oxford set the foundation for much of my work in the years that followed,” Dr. Mitchell said. “They were great times, and it was an honor to come back so many years later and still see that my original work, and the work of my colleagues, is as vibrant now as it was then.”

Back then, he influenced other researchers who were seeking to understand the complex biofeedback loop connecting the nervous system, the heart and muscles throughout the body. He started his career seeking to establish a better understanding of the conceptual framework of cardiovascular function in health, as well as how cardiovascular function changes during illness or under various physical and environmental conditions.

Dr. Mitchell’s early work helped establish that a reflex originating from skeletal muscle plays an integral role in regulating the cardiovascular response to exercise. The “exercise pressor reflex,” as it is known today, is activated during muscle contraction by stimulation of receptors that respond to either mechanical distortion or the metabolic by-products of exercising skeletal muscle.

Other researchers in attendance at the symposium included Dr. Kanji Matsukawa, of Hiroshima University in Japan, who spoke about how “feed forward” mechanisms operate in motor activity in animals, and Dr. David Paterson, Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Physiology and University of Oxford Professor, who spoke on identifying the neurocircuitry underpinning the nervous system’s “central command” during exercise in humans. Proceedings of the symposium will be published in Experimental Physiology.

Dr. Mitchell has been invited to give the distinguished Paton Prize Lecture at the 2012 Physiological Society meeting to be held in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Following his graduation from UT Southwestern, Dr. Mitchell completed a residency and fellowship at Parkland Memorial Hospital in 1958. He spent four years at at the National Heart Institute in Bethesda, Md., before returning to UT Southwestern as a faculty member in 1962.

Dr. Mitchell holds the S. Roger and Carolyn P. Horchow Chair in Cardiac Research, named in his honor.