Pioneering studies in the autonomic nervous system and fields of neurophysiology, neuroendocrinology; and cardiac physiology.


SUNY Downstate Medical Center


Chandler McCuskey Brooks, PhD, chair of SUNY Downstate’s Department of Physiology and Pharmacology,1948 – 1972 ; Founding Dean of SUNY Downstate’s School of Graduate Studies, 1966- 1972. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1975. Awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the Emperor of Japan in 1979.


Brooks made pioneering contributions in four distinct but overlapping fields that were fundamental to later discoveries by other research groups.

In the autonomic nervous system, Brooks’ contributions included: 1) description of reflexes linking skin and muscle to autonomic activity; 2) the role of the autonomic nervous system in circadian rhythms; 3) reciprocal and non-reciprocal autonomic control mechanisms for the heart; 4) control of water balance in the body; and 5) development of the idea that the autonomic nervous system is the great integrator of body functions in that it participates in all functional activities and affects all body tissues and organs.

In the field of neurophysiology, his studies of central inhibition in the spinal cord, carried out with J.C. Eccles, have become a classic in the understanding of inhibitory processes in the nervous system.

As part of his pioneering work in neuroendocrinology, Brooks   located the neural pathways for various phenomena (ovulation, pseudopreganancy, and diabetes insipidus) and recorded electrical activity from hypothalamic neurosecretory cells to show the linkage of “natural” stimuli to neuroendocrine hormone release.

In the field of cardiac physiology Brooks, along with Oscar Orias, contributed numerous findings on cardiac excitability. The first discovery was the period of cardiac vulnerability and its relation to arrhythmias, leading to the publication of a classic, widely cited book, The Excitability of the Heart, in 1955. These studies led to the development of the principles for the use of acute and chronically implanted pacemakers. The Brooks’ group was at the forefront of intracellular recordings in cardiac muscle cells and Purkinje and sinoatrial node pacemaker cells, with the first publication appearing in 1952. This developed into many discoveries, including the role of calcium ions in the action potentials of the sinoatrial node dominant pacemakers.


1950s – 1980s.