Mauricio Rosas-Ballina

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What are your main interests? My main research interest is related to regulation of inflammation by autonomic nervous system. Specifically, my thesis work addresses the anatomical and molecular pathway by which electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve attenuates systemic inflammation in an animal model of sepsis.

Sepsis is a health issue because of its high incidence, mortality and economical cost. Despite several years of research and clinical trials testing promising drugs, sepsis is considered to be an intractable disease. In part, this is so because current experimental and therapeutic strategies designed to harness inflammation are based on our understanding of a system with linear dynamics. More recently, however, the process of sepsis has been formulated in terms of complexity theory. Bodily organization and function are conceived as an emergent property of a non-linear, non-equilibrium system organized as a scale-free network. Loss of homeostasis in sepsis is perceived as the progression from a stable behavioral pattern or attractor to another characterized by organ dysfunction as a consequence of reduced connectedness between the system’s elements.

What do you hope to get out of the CSSS? Since I am physician trained under a mechanistic and reductionist framework which has failed to offer an effective solution to sepsis, I am greatly interested in learning to view physiology under the scope of complex behavior. As a neophyte in the study of complex systems, I would like to grasp ideas and get to know tools to answer fundamental questions like: how are the elements of a human living system defined? How are they connected? How can connectedness be measured? How is communication between elements lost? How can communication be reestablished? What sorts of expertise can you bring to the group? I bring more questions than answers. In case someone is interested I can contribute with some knowledge on medical physiopathology.

Do you have any possible projects in mind for the CSSS? My personal interests range from sports (squash, baseball and soccer -I hope to be able to watch some Euro2008 games, and organize a soccer match or two) to world history (if somebody studies complexity in the organization of or conflict between human societies I invite the first drink). Please count me in for hiking expeditions provided they are scheduled at a decent hour (I think 5:00 a.m. Hawaii-Aleutian time zone will do).

Looking forward to sharing laughs and exchanging ideas this June!