Dr Bryan Joseph Caldwell

PhD Bioengineering

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Honorary Academic


I gained a PhD in Bioengineering in 2008 from the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and was invited to SUNY Upstate Medical University in New York to perform postdoctoral research on the mechanisms for successful cardiac defibrillation. Over three years, I combined an innovative 3D tomographic optical mapping technique with a novel technique that literally turns heart tissue transparent for ultra-deep confocal microscopy. For the first time, field-induced electrical excitation was related to underlying heart structure throughout the live heart wall. The opportunity to work for NASA followed.

From 2011 to 2014, I managed a smell, nasal patency and nutrition study at the NASA Flight Analog Research Unit, based at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX as a Postdoctoral Research Associate for Cornell University, NY. This study of the taste and smell deficiency reported by astronauts in space used 70-days of head down tilted bed rest as an analog for weightlessness. While engaged in this study, I had a key role in crew interview and selection for the HISEAS 1 planetary exploration analog located in Hawaii, and a role in Mission Support for the four months of the mission. A post-doctoral highlight was testing a cooking galley designed for low gravity environments on four ZeroG parabolic flights, an astronaut weightlessness trainer known as the ‘vomit comet’.

In September 2014, I was invited to join the NASA HERA C1M4 deep space mission analog as a member of the four person crew. During the 7-days of confinement in the HERA module housed at Johnson Space Center, we were exposed to an array of cognitive and psychological challenges while completing spaceflight tasks to better understand crew composition and cohesion during deep space exploration.

It is great to be back in NZ to work with the Cardiac Electrophysiology group on a short term study of the electrical properties of the fibrotic heart. I currently live in Galveston, TX where I hold an appointment as Adjunct Assistant Professorship at the Institute of Translational Sciences, UTMB.

Research | Current

Electrical recordings will be obtained from a well-established sheep model of patchy fibrosis and heart failure to determine the effect of fibrosis on the electrical properties of the ventricles. Recordings from the epicardial and endocardial surfaces of the ventricles will be made in normal (sinus) heart rhythm and during ventricular pacing.

Subsequently, an array of needle electrodes will be inserted across the anterior left ventricular wall and the recording protocol repeated.  An ultrasound assessment will be made adjacent to the electrode array to determine the extent of ventricular wall thickening during contraction in order to correct for the effects of intramural electrode movement on the measurement of repolarization.

Finally we will use standard clinical provocative pacing protocols (Wellens) to determine ventricular tachydcardia and fibrillation thresholds.  At the end of the study, the heart will be removed for histological analysis of the degree and distribution of fibrosis.

Research group

Cardiac Electrophysiology

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Trew, M. L., Caldwell, B. J., & Smaill, B. H. (2018). Quantitative descriptions of extended volume cardiac tissue architecture from multiple large hearts. Conference proceedings : ... Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Annual Conference, 2018, 616-619. 10.1109/embc.2018.8512309
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Bruce Smaill, Mark Trew
  • Caldwell, B. J., Trew, M. L., Le Grice, I., & Smaill, B. (2017). Development of 3D intramural and surface potentials in the LV: microstructural basis of preferential transmural conduction. Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology, 28 (6), 692-701. 10.1111/jce.13207
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mark Trew, Ian LeGrice, Bruce Smaill
  • Caldwell, B. J., & Binsted, K. (2017). Frequency of Hi-Seas Crew Communications to Mission Support during 4-, 8-, and 12-Month Simulated Planetary Exploration Missions. Paper presented at 2017 NASA Human Research Program Investigators' Workshop, Galveston, TX, USA. 23 January - 27 January 2017. Related URL.
  • Caldwell, B. J., Roma, P. G., & Binsted, K. (2016). Team Cohesion, Performance, and Biopsychosocial Adaptation Research at the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS). Paper presented at 31st Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Anaheim, California, USA. 14 April - 16 April 2016. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/28717
  • Binsted, K. A., Basner, M., Bedwell, W., Caldwell, B., Chang, D., Hunter, J., ... Santoro, J. (9/2/2016). Investigations At Hi-SEAS into Team Function and Performance on Long Duration Exploration Missions. Poster presented at 2016 NASA Human Research Project Investigators' Workshop: Frontiers in Human Space ExplorationResearch, Texas, United States. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/28650
  • Caldwell, B. J., Trew, M. L., & Pertsov, A. M. (2015). Cardiac response to low-energy field pacing challenges the standard theory of defibrillation. Circ Arrhythm Electrophysiol, 8 (3), 685-693. 10.1161/CIRCEP.114.002661
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/26429
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mark Trew
  • Caldwell, B. J., Trew, M. L., & Pertsov, A. M. (11/4/2015). Cardiac response to weak electrical shocks challenges the functional syncytium paradigm. Poster presented at Cardiac Physiome Workshop, Auckland, NZ. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/27788
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mark Trew
  • Caldwell, B. J., Halpern, B. P., Binsted, K., & Hunter, J. B. (2014). Cephalad fluid shift induced nasal tissue swelling during 70-day 6° head- down tilt in exerciser and control subjects. Paper presented at 2014 NASA Human Research Program Investigators’ Workshop, Galveston, TX. 11 February - 13 February 2014. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/27782


Contact details

Alternative contact

Primary email address: bjc263@cornell.edu

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