The Vanderbilt Autonomic Dysfunction Center was established in 1978 as the first international center for patient care, research, and training focusing exclusively on disorders of the autonomic nervous system. Its creation brought together in one site a cadre of physicians, scientists and nurses who could foster a balanced scientific approach to elucidation of the etiology and optimal therapy of these disorders. Over the years, many people have contributed to this effort at Vanderbilt. Many of the young scientists and physicians who have trained here have gone out and established similar centers in other parts of the world. Others have taken positions at academic research centers and pharmaceutical firms where they are seeking improved drugs to treat these disorders.
Investigators in Vanderbilt's Autonomic Dysfunction Center have identified previously unrecognized disorders, including dopamine-beta-hydroxylase deficiency, a syndrome in which patients have a congenital absence of norepinephrine and epinephrine, and norepinephrine transporter deficiency, a disorder in which there is impaired clearance of norepinephrine from the synaptic cleft. The investigators have introduced novel therapeutic modalities for the management of orthostatic hypotensive patients. They also study baroreflex failure in human subjects. Orthostatic intolerance, nitric oxide mechanisms in blood pressure regulation, and the dysautonomia of hypoglycemia are additional current research topics.