Kevin J. Cummings, Ph.D.

  • CUMMINGS_KevinAssistant Professor
  • PhD: University of Victoria (Prof. Nancy M Sherwood)
  • Postdoctoral Training: University of Calgary (Prof. Richard JA Wilson); La Trobe University (Prof. Peter B Frappell); Dartmouth College (Prof. Eugene E Nattie)


603-727-6146 (mobile)
573-882-0283 (office)
573-882-0133 (lab)

Rm 23, Veterinary Science Building
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Missouri
1600 E. Rollins St
Columbia, MO 65211

I have a general interest in the development and function of respiratory, cardiovascular and thermoregulatory control systems. My current research program investigates the control of breathing, cardiovascular functiona and sleep in early postnatal life. We are particularly interested in the role of brain stem serotonin (5-HT) neurons in these processes, because the majority of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) victims have at least one defect within these neurons. We have a number of on-going projects in the lab. First, we are studying the role of brain stem 5-HT in breathing during REM and NREM sleep, and  in the ability of infant rats to wake up (arouse) from sleep, spontaneously and in response to hypoxia (decreased O2) and hypercapnia (increased CO2). We are interested in this project because, in addition to 5-HT defects,  infants that die of SIDS display apnea, abnormal sleep and likely fail to wake up during an apnea (no breathing) and the ensuing hypoxia and hypercapnia. Second, we are studying how 5-HT participates in the autonomic control of arterial blood pressure and heart rate across sleep states. Last, we are interested in  why brainstem serotonin appears to be essential for cardiovascular and respiratory recovery during  “autoresuscitation”, a process that allows young mammals to survive conditions of extreme oxygen deprivation. We are interested in these last two projects because there is evidence of autonomic dysfunction in SIDS victims in the days and weeks prior to death, manifesting as abnormal heart rate control, as well as evidence of failed cardiovascular recovery during episodes of severe hypoxia.

We utilize a variety of  animal models in which the serotonin system has been compromised, complemented with immunohistochemistry and transcriptomic analysis to help us understand mechanistically how 5-HT operates in early life to maintain cardiorespiratory homeostasis.

If you are interested in joining our research team, I encourage you to get in touch with me by phone or email.

Current Lab members: Jane Chen (lab manager), Jennifer Magnusson (PhD candidate), Jacob Young (undergraduate).

Recent publications demonstrating our interests and techniques:

  1. Givan, S.A., Cummings, K.J. 2016. Intermittent severe hypoxia and serotonin depletion induce cellular and transcriptomic plasticity in the neonatal rat ventrolateral medulla. J Appl Physiol 120: 1277-87. PMID: 26968026
  2. Magnusson, J and Cummings, K.J.  2015. Plasticity in breathing and arterial blood pressure following Acute  intermittent hypercapnic hypoxia in infant rat pups with a partial loss of 5-HT neurons. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 309:R1273-84.
  3.  Yang, H.T. and Cummings, K.J 2013. Brainstem serotonin protects blood pressure in neonatal   rats exposed to episodic anoxia. J Appl Physiol 115: 1733-41.
  4. Chen, J., Magnusson, J., Karsenty, G, Cummings, KJ. 2013.  Time-dependent effects of serotonin on gasping and         autoresuscitation in neonatal mice.  J Appl Physiol 114: 1668-76

For a complete list of publications and other information see:

CV_Kevin J Cummings