The Laboratory was founded in 1950 by Prof. I. T. Kurtsin. The main direction of investigations at the period from 1950 to 1976 was analysis of functional interrelations of the cerebral cortex and visceral organs. The concept of cortico-visceral pathology was developed and, on its basis, the theories of pathogenesis of a number of diseases of visceral organs were put forward.
In 1976–1987 the Laboratory was headed by Prof. N. N. Beller. Mechanisms of participation of the limbic system structures in realization of cortical influences on functions of visceral organs were studied.
Since 1987, the head of the Laboratory is Prof. V. A. Bagaev. The main efforts of the Laboratory are concentrated on studying brain structures included in the central autonomic nervous network and mechanisms of their participation in processes of regulation of activity of visceral systems and organs. Structural-functional organization of the bulbar « gastric » neurons is studied. There are established regularities of formation of their impulse activity patterns providing realization of the vago-vagal motor gastric reflex. Mechanism of its centrifugal regulation is revealed which is based on a change of efficiency of impulse conduction in the « gastric » neuronal system of the vago-solitary complex. Using immunohistochemical and electrophysiological methods, mechanisms of modulation of telencephalic neuronal systems with interoceptive impulses and mechanisms of therapeutic effect of vagus stimulation are analyzed. There is studied the structural-functional organization of amygdalofugal projections to neurons of the brain areas involved in processes of regulation of visceral functions. Disclosed is one of mechanisms of possible participation of cerebral cortex neurons in processes of autonomic regulation. Participation of neurons of « visceral » areas of the infralimbic and insular brain cortex areas in activity of visceral organs has been proven to occur by interaction of corticofugal impulses and interoceptive signals within the limits of bulbar autonomic centers. A complex morphophysiological study is performed of organization of the brain cortex insular areas connected with processes regulation of vegetative functions. A notion of the “visceral” field of the insular cortex is formulated and scheme of its organization is proposed. The obtained results are important for development of theoretical grounds of psychosomatic medicine and for understanding of principles of adaptation of visceral systems to changing life conditions.
Apart from fundamental problems, the laboratory takes part in development of applied tasks. They include the cycle of studies on mechanisms of formation of autonomic manifestations of the hypokinetic syndrome (in cooperation with Institute of Medical-Biological problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences) as well as study of postsurgery disturbances of motor function of stomach, small and large intestines and physiological substantiation of methods of their treatment (in cooperation with the Abdominal Surgery Clinic of the Military Medical Academy).
A number of new methodical procedures and computer softwares are developed. They include the software for computer recording of activities of individual neurons and the on-line construction of poststimulus histograms as well as the PC-based software-hardware complex for a long-tome multichannel monitoring of the gastrointestinal tract motor activity (by a contract with the Leningrad Providence Government).
The Laboratory develops actively contacts and performs cooperative studies with research institutions of Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Great Britain, Finland, France, Slovakia.