Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program


First Advisor

Patsy Dickinson

Second Advisor

Amy Johnson


Baroreceptors are stretch receptors located in the aorta of mammals; in response to increased afterload, they elicit a decrease in heart rate, creating a negative feedback loop that lowers blood pressure. Although lobsters (Homarus americanus) do not have baroreceptors like mammals, closely related land crabs have been shown to have baroreceptor-like responses. Heart contraction is also regulated by the Frank-Starling response, where increasing stretch or preload increases the contractile force of the heart. In addition to these types of biomechanical modulations, lobsters use a central pattern generator, the cardiac ganglion, to maintain synchronicity of the heartbeat. The heart is also controlled by the central nervous system via neuromodulators, such as myosuppressin, which has been shown to increase active force and decrease frequency in isolated lobster hearts. We performed experiments on a lobster heart with the main arteries still intact, and varied the preload by stretching anterior arteries, and the afterload by elevating the dorsal abdominal artery. We added myosuppressin to modulate the cardiac ganglion output and muscle contraction. We found that the baroreceptor-like response is most directly modulated by active force, whereas frequency could be a secondary control. Increasing preload does increase active force, but that does not correlate to a higher cardiac output, which shows that how hard the heart pumps is not what determines how effectively it is pumping. Additionally, we found that myosuppressin has a much stronger effect on frequency than active force, and so with myosuppressin, frequency becomes the main determinant of cardiac output.