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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2003 Apr;94(4):1508-18.

Perturbations in three medullary nuclei enhance fractionated breathing in awake goats.

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Departments of Pediatrics and Physiology, Medical College of Wisconsin and Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Milwaukee 53226, USA.


Our aim was to determine the frequency and characteristics of a fractionated pattern of diaphragm and upper airway muscle activity and airflow during wakefulness and sleep in adult goats. A fractionated breath (FBr) was defined as three or more brief (40-150 ms) interruptions in the diaphragm activity not associated with multiple swallows, eructation, mastication, or movement. During a FBr, the discharge pattern in the diaphragm and upper airway muscles showed complete cycles of inspiration and expiration. Whereas the interval between peak diaphragm activity of the breath preceding the FBr to the first diaphragm peak of the FBr was 15-20% less than the average interval of the preceding five control breaths, the breath-to-breath interval of the five breaths after a FBr did not differ from the control breaths before the FBr event. In normal goats, FBr was evident in only 4 of 18 (22%) awake goats and in only one of these goats during non-rapid eye movement sleep. In 35 goats with implanted microtubules in the medulla, FBr were present in 14 (40%) goats. In these goats with FBr, 78% (11 of 14) had one or more implantations into or near the facial, vestibular, or raphe nuclei. The effect of perturbations in these nuclei is probably nonspecific, because injections into these nuclei with mock cerebrospinal fluid or excitatory amino acid-receptor agonist or antagonist produced both increases and decreases in the frequency of the FBr while not altering their characteristics. Finally, a swallow occurred at the termination or during the first breath after 60% of the FBr. We speculate that the FBr manifest 1) the disruption of a neuronal network, which coordinates breathing and other functions (such as swallowing), utilizing the same anatomic structures, and/or 2) transient changes in synaptic inputs that increase the rate of the normal respiratory rhythm generator or allow an ectopic, anomalous generator to become dominant.

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