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In this 15 June issue of The Journal of Physiology we introduce CrossTalk, a set of short editorial articles debating controversial topics in physiology.

Jerry Dempsey, recently Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Applied Physiology, has joined The Journal's Editorial Board as our CrossTalk Editor. He explains the thinking behind this new article series: ‘By hearing explicit accounts of contradictory viewpoints, the listener gains a better understanding of the source of a controversy. This dialectic process whereby a thesis is advanced, then opposed by an antithesis, and subsequently arriving at a synthesis is a powerful, and often entertaining, method for gaining knowledge and for understanding the source of the controversy.’

Our first CrossTalk explores the links between sympathetic activity, sleep apnoea and cardiovascular disease. Malcolm Kohler of the Sleep Disorders Centre at the University of Zurich and John Stradling of the Oxford Centre for Respiratory Medicine, Churchill Hospital, Oxford propose that most of the cardiovascular consequences of obstructive sleep apnoea are due to increased sympathetic activity. Opposing this view, Lena and Peretz Lavie of The Lloyd Rigler Sleep Apnea Research Laboratory at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa argue that reactive oxygen species/oxidative stress is the initiator of, and therefore mainly responsible for, the cardiovascular morbidities. The authors have independently explained their theses and have then been invited to provide a rebuttal to the opposing view, engaging in the dialectic process that Jerry envisages and providing readers with an overview of current thinking on the question.

Jerry also sees the new series as an opportunity to engage readers in the discussion and we therefore provide a comment link beside each article on The Journal's HighWire site. We encourage readers to contribute their thoughts to advance the debate. Comments can be added for any of the articles in the series. These will be subject to editorial oversight and comments that contribute significantly to the debate will be published online only, as an addendum to the relevant article.

Extracting information relevant to our research interests from the vast mass of online journal articles now available to researchers is a challenge that we all face. CrossTalk in The Journal of Physiology aims to frame controversies clearly and succinctly and offers a reference point to readers from which new ideas can flow. We hope you enjoy the series and invite you to suggest new topics for debate. Suggestions should be sent to Jerry at jdempsey@wisc.edu. Please suggest both the controversial topic and suitable authors to lead the debate.