Yaroslav Molkov has received a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the neuroscience underlying obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)—specifically targeting how respiration and high blood pressure are linked in the brain. Molkov is assistant professor of mathematics in the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).

Untreated OSA has cumulative effects on the cardiovascular system, leading to hypertension that may be drug resistant. It is estimated that half of all individuals with obstructive sleep apnea are hypertensive.

The 5-year award (R01AT008632-01) from NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health will enable Molkov to develop a computational model to simulate the electrical signals generated by neurons that travel from the brain to the muscles controlling breathing and blood vessels.

Molkov and neurophysiologists Ana Abdala and Julian Paton of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and Daniel Zoccal of Sao Paulo State University in Brazil are collaborating on this interdisciplinary project that will investigate the mechanisms that link breathing and control of blood pressure in the brain in both health and disease.

Molkov’s work will inform the neurophysiology experiments, and he will translate findings of this work into what he describes as the first computer model with the potential to generate effective means of controlling hypertension by exploiting its association with respiratory mechanisms.

“Understanding the complex neuroscience of how breathing and control of blood pressure are linked in the brain will be instrumental in developing alternative approaches to treatment of hypertension,” says Molkov, who joined the School of Science at IUPUI in 2011, in a release. “Conventional therapeutic management is poor. New answers are needed.”

Molkov is an applied mathematician with extensive training in computational neuroscience.