Simon McMullan

Associate Professor

  • 1485 Citations
  • 19 h-Index

Research output per year

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Personal profile


I am a integrative neuroscientist within the Neurobiology of Vital Systems research node, a federation of research teams concerned with the organisation of the brain pathways that underlie the ABC of life: Airways, Breathing & Circulation. My research program focuses on two main themes:

  1. How are the brain circuits that control blood pressure regulation organised?
  2. How does activity from other brain circuits change the behaviour of those that control blood pressure?

These are long-standing mysteries in the field of neuroscience that have thusfar alluded satisfactory explanation, largely due to the inherent difficulties in selectively identifying and interrogating specific groups of neurons in live animals.

Tertiary Education

2002:  PhD (Physiology), University of Bristol, UK

1998 BSc. (Hons) Physiology, University of Manchester, UK

Research Experience

2018 – present: Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

2007 – 2017: Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

2005-2007: Research Fellow, Hypertension and Stroke Research Laboratory, University of Sydney, Australia

2002 – 2005: Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Sensory Research Laboratory, University of Bristol, UK

Research interests

My research focuses on the autonomic nervous system, the part of the brain that subserves basic life support (such as the control of breathing and the cardiovascular system). Clinical and epidemiological data indicate a critical role for these circuits in the generation of common and debilitating conditions such as sleep apnoea, heart disease and high blood pressure, and are likely drivers of cardiovascular co-morbidities in affective disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. However, our basic understanding of what governs the activities of these circuits is still too incomplete to be of practical use; we know enough to know that something is wrong, but not enough to clearly see how to fix the problem. The long-term objective of my research is to identify critical nodes of these circuits that can be manipulated and exploited to alleviate their pathophysiological burden. I also have a long-standing secondary interest in the neural mechanisms that underlie sensory experience, with a particular emphasis on pain signalling.

My laboratory uses a combination of genetically restricted viral tracing, optogenetics, traditional electrophysiological and neuroanatomical techniques to investigate the organisational principles that underlie the function of these critically important systems. My group is small but productive, well-integrated with a network of high-achieving collaborators, and focused on using rapidly emerging technologies to conduct high quality interdisciplinary research. 


Undergraduate & Postgraduate Coursework

I teach neuroscience to undergraduate students in the Psychology, Bachelor of Clinical Sciences, and Medical programs and have had a number of teaching leadership roles within the Faculty:

  • 2019 – present Unit Convenor, medi704, Decoding the Brain
  • 2012 – 2015 Departmental Director, Master of Research program
  • 2013 – 2015 Unit Convenor, medi701, Foundations in Medical Research
  • 2014 – 2015 Unit Convenor, medi741, Research Rotations
  • 2012 – 2015 Adjunct Member, Macquarie University Biology Department MRES Committee
  • 2010 – 2013 Departmental Coordinator, Honours program
  • 2010 – 2013 Adjunct Member, Macquarie University Biology Department Honours Committee

Research Supervision

I have supervised 1 Honours, 2 MRes and 3 PhD students to completion as primary supervisor, and co-supervised a further 2 PhD students to completion. All of my students have received research scholarships, and most have been recognised by competitive prizes or travel scholarships during their candidature:

  • Dean’s Award for Research Excellence
  • Adam J Berry Award from the Australian Academy of Sciences
  • VC’s Commendation
  • Competitive scholarship to attend the Australian Course in Advanced Neuroscience.

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Respiratory modulation: Role in the development of cardiovascular diseases

Allen, A. M., McMullan, S., Bathgate, R. & Menuet, C.


Project: Research

Adaptation of respiratory chemoreception: role of inhibitory neuropeptides

McMullan, S., Kumar, N., Power, J. & Abbott, S.


Project: Research

A novel optical stimulation method for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Treatment

McMullan, S., Bilston, L. & Burke , P.


Project: Other

Research Outputs

Excessive respiratory modulation of blood pressure triggers hypertension

Menuet, C., Le, S., Dempsey, B., Connelly, A. A., Kamar, J. L., Jancovski, N., Bassi, J. K., Walters, K., Simms, A. E., Hammond, A., Fong, A. Y., Goodchild, A. K., McMullan, S. & Allen, A. M., 7 Mar 2017, In : Cell Metabolism. 25, 3, p. 739-748 10 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • 23 Citations (Scopus)

    Mapping and analysis of the connectome of sympathetic premotor neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla of the rat using a volumetric brain atlas

    Dempsey, B., Le, S., Turner, A., Bokiniec, P., Ramadas, R., Bjaalie, J. G., Menuet, C., Neve, R., Allen, A. M., Goodchild, A. K. & McMullan, S., 1 Mar 2017, In : Frontiers in Neural Circuits. 11, p. 1-16 16 p., 9.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 17 Citations (Scopus)
    9 Downloads (Pure)

    On the presence and functional significance of sympathetic premotor neurons with collateralized spinal axons in the rat

    Farmer, D. G. S., Pracejus, N., Dempsey, B., Turner, A., Bokiniec, P., Paton, J. F. R., Pickering, A. E., Burguet, J., Andrey, P., Goodchild, A. K., McAllen, R. M. & McMullan, S., 1 Jul 2019, In : Journal of Physiology. 597, 13, p. 3407-3423 17 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • 4 Citations (Scopus)

    A student’s guide to neural circuit tracing

    Saleeba, C., Dempsey, B., Le, S., Goodchild, A. & McMullan, S., 27 Aug 2019, In : Frontiers in Neuroscience. 13, AUG, p. 1-19 19 p., 897.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

    Open Access
  • 2 Citations (Scopus)
    3 Downloads (Pure)