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McKinley, Michael Joseph

Visiting Fellows in Medicine

Research field

Neural control of body fluid and electrolyte balance and temperature regulation; hypothalamus for thermoregulatory and osmoregulatory control in mammals


Since 1974, while at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience, University of Melbourne, Australia, Michael McKinley established himself as a leader in the field of neural control of body fluid and electrolyte balance and temperature regulation. He was a post-doctoral fellow at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden and Visiting Professor at Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany. He was an Associate Director of the Florey Institute, and continues as Honorary Senior Fellow in the Department of Physiology, University of Melbourne and Honorary Principal Research Fellow at the Florey Institute.

He has been a member of the Editorial Boards of the American Journal of Physiology, Temperature, Neuroendocrinology, and Journal of Neuroendocrinology. He has co-authored 290 scientific papers and given 58 invited lectures. His publications have been cited 10,800 times (H index = 58).

His scientific discoveries include:

  1. The identification of the sites in the brain of sensors that detect dehydration and neural pathways that drive vasopressin secretion and thirst to regulate body water content.
  2. The discovery that increased sodium excretion by the kidney is an important homeostatic response to dehydration regulated by the lamina terminalis.
  3. Contributions to knowledge of the actions of angiotensin II in the brain to cause thirst, salt intake, increased arterial blood pressure and vasopressin secretion; including the first evidence of angiotensin receptors in the hypothalamus and rostral ventrolateral medulla of the human brain, sites of the sympathetic premotor vasoconstrictor neurons that regulate blood pressure.
  4. Discovery of ionic, hormonal and gene expression mechanisms involved in the generation of salt hunger.
  5. Mapping of the distribution of insulin receptors in the brain
  6. Elucidation of the structure and function of the brain’s circumventricular organs as sites at which hormones influence behavioural, neuroendocrine and autonomic function.
  7. Discovery of brain site at which the hormone relaxin stimulates thirst and vasopressin secretion
  8. Identification of neural pathways from the preoptic region that regulate skin blood flow in response to body heating, cooling and in fever.
  9. Using imaging techniques, identified regions of the human cerebral cortex that contribute to the generation and satiation of thirst.
  10. Elucidation of a neural pathway from the brain to immune organs mediating an inflammatory reflex response to systemic infection.

Structure Department of Physiology (Honorary Senior Fellow and Honorary Principal Research Fellow, Professor)

Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, University of Melbourne

Melbourne,  Australia

Unibo reference

Prof. Roberto Amici

Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche e Neuromotorie