The Vanderbilt Autonomic Dysfunction Center was established in 1978 as the first international center for patient care, research, and training with a focus on the autonomic nervous system. Its creation brought together a cadre of physicians, scientists, and nurses who fosterered a balanced scientific approach to elucidation of the etiology and optimal therapy of these disorders. Investigators have identified previously unrecognized disorders, including Dopamine-Beta-Hydroxylase Deficiency, a congenital disorder characterized by an absence of norepinephrine and epinephrine, and Norepinephrine Transporter Deficiency, a disorder characterized by impaired clearance of norepinehprine in the neural synaptic cleft. In addition, inverstigators have introduced novel therapeutic modalities for the management of orthostatic hypotension. Baroreflex Failure, orthostatic intolerance, nitric oxide mechanisms in blood pressure regulation, and the dysautonomic properties of hypoglycemia have also been studied at the Vanderbilt Autonomic Clinical Research Center.
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 to enhance drug therapy to treat these disorders.