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Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2012 May 31;181(3):286-301. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2012.03.012. Epub 2012 Mar 30.

Tonic and phasic drive to medullary respiratory neurons during periodic breathing.

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Texas Tech University School of Medicine, Department of Physiology, Lubbock, TX 79430-6551, USA.


It is unknown how central neural activity produces the repetitive termination and restart of periodic breathing (PB). We hypothesized that inspiratory and expiratory neural activities would be greatest during the waxing phase and least during the waning phase. We analyzed diaphragmatic and medullary respiratory neural activities during PB in intact unanesthetized adult cats. Diaphragmatic activity was increased and phasic during the waxing phase and was decreased and tonic during the waning phase. Activity of expiratory (n=21) and inspiratory (n=40) neurons was generally increased and phasic during the waxing phase and was decreased and more tonic during the waning phase. During apneas associated with PB, diaphragmatic activity was silent and most, but not all, inspiratory cells were inactive whereas most expiratory cells decreased activity but remained tonically active. We suggest that reduced strength of reciprocal inhibition, secondary to reduced respiratory drive, allows for simultaneous tonic activity of inspiratory and expiratory neurons of the central pattern generator, ultimately resulting in central apnea.

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