Corneille Heymans (1892-1968) was a Belgian physiologist, born in Ghent, who received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1938 for his discovery of the regulatory effect on respiration of sensory organs associated with the carotid artery, in the neck, and with the aortic arch, leading from the heart.
At the University of Ghent (1920-1968) he worked with his father, Jean-Francois Heymans, whom he succeeded in 1930 as professor of pharmacology, on determining the way in which changes in blood composition and pressure cause alterations in heart and respiratory functions.
Experimenting with anesthetised dogs, Heymans demonstrated the existence of a set of sensory organs, known as pressoreceptors, in the wall of the carotid sinus - a slight enlargement of the carotid artery, at the point where it divides into the external and internal carotids. He showed that these receptors monitor blood pressure and help to regulate heart rate and respiration. He also found near the pressoreceptors, and at the base of the aorta, a set of chemoreceptors, or glomera, that monitor the oxygen content of the blood and help to regulate breathing through the medulla, the respiratory centre at the base of the brain.