Rochester, Minnesota




The laboratory of Sarah E. Baker, Ph.D., studies how the autonomic nervous system regulates blood pressure and heart rate, with a focus on sex differences and women's health. Current studies investigate the relationship between neurovascular function and hot flashes in midlife women. The premise is that the neurovascular dysregulation associated with hot flashes puts women at risk for cardiovascular disease at menopause.

Dr. Baker's lab collaborates with investigators across the Mayo Clinic enterprise. Projects focus on:

  • Effects of hot flashes on kidney function.
  • Cardiovascular regulation in women with spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD).
  • Women with early bilateral oophorectomy.
  • Neurovascular function in patients with uterine fibroids.

Focus areas

  • Hot flashes and neurovascular function. Neurovascular dysregulation associated with hot flashes puts women at risk of the structural changes in the brain and vasculature. Cardiovascular disease, sleep disturbance and cognitive decline at menopause are associated with these structural changes. Dr. Baker is studying the mechanisms that drive these relations. She will use these findings to inform strategies and treatments to prevent development of cardiovascular disease.
  • Contribution of neurovascular function in various disease states specific to women. Dr. Baker is collaborating with several physicians across Mayo Clinic to understand how the autonomic nervous system controls blood pressure in various conditions that are specific to women. These include women with uterine fibroids, surgical menopause or SCAD.
  • Vagal nerve stimulation. The vagus nerve is involved in normal physiology, and disturbances in vagal control are implicated in several pathophysiological conditions. However, there is a lack of information on the physiology of this nerve in humans. Despite vagal nerve stimulator implants being used worldwide to treat epilepsy, depression, anxiety and gastrointestinal disorders, multiorgan responses to vagal nerve stimulation are not understood. Dr. Baker is a co-investigator in the multisite Research Evaluation Vagal Excitation and Anatomical Linkages (REVEAL) project, where she is studying the effects of vagal nerve stimulation on the autonomic nervous system. This collaboration will help investigators:
    • Understand the physiology that underlies therapeutic uses of vagal nerve stimulation.
    • Optimize vagal nerve stimulation settings for existing therapies.
    • Develop new therapeutic uses for vagal nerve stimulation.
  • Exercise physiology and sports performance. Dr. Baker's doctoral training and interest in exercise physiology and sports performance have resulted in several publications related to these topics. Many are mentored student projects designed to address questions that have come up during weekly lab works-in-progress meetings. Topics include the age at which sex differences in athletic performance begin and meta-analysis of the literature surrounding nitrate supplementation with beetroot juice and performance.

Significance to patient care

Understanding how the neurovascular physiology of women relates to hot flashes will inform hypertension and cardiovascular disease (CVD) treatment and prevention options. The presence of hot flashes are a CVD risk factor beyond traditional CVD risk factors and, as such, is likely to be an important determinant for a woman's health.

Professional highlights

  • Principal investigator, Hot Flashes and Neurovascular Function in Women, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2021-2026.
  • Co-investigator, Research Evaluating Vagal Excitation and Anatomical Linkages, National Institutes of Health, 2022-2025.
  • Co-director, Human Integrative Physiology Laboratory, Mayo Clinic, 2020-present.
  • Mayo Clinic Team Science Award, Expanded Access Program for Convalescent Plasma, 2021.
  • Duane K. Rorie Award, Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 2019.


Administrative Appointment

  1. Associate Consultant I-Research, Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine
  2. Associate Consultant I-Research, Department of Physiology & Biomedical Engineering

Academic Rank

  1. Assistant Professor of Physiology


  1. PhD - Major: Physiological Sciences, Minor: Pharmaceutical Sciences- Clinical Research Track University of Arizona
  2. BS - Major: Cell and Molecular Biology, Minor: Biochemistry Winona State University

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