The Neural Regulation of Respiration

Brainstem Centres in Respiration. — Sara Pintwala

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The regulation of respiration is a highly integrated process with control from centres in both the brainstem and the cerebral cortex. Respiratory neuroscientists have thus far deciphered the core components of the respiratory rhythm network within both the medulla and pons. Those of the medulla are anantomically defines to the Ventral Respiratory Column (VRC) and are involved primarily in respiratory pattern generation. In the pons, centres are more so implicated in shaping the respiratory pattern and are called the Pontine Respiratory Group (PRG) or, apneustic Centre. Although much of the system has been resolved, our understanding of some of the essential components of the system are still in debate.
The first section of our NeuroWiki will address the controversial topic of respiratory pattern generation. Although a centre located within the VRC called the pre-Bötzinger Complex (pBC) is conventionally regarded as the source of this respiratory rhythm, recent research has suggested otherwise1. Rather, it has been proposed that instead of one centre of the brain operating as a pacemaker for the source of inspiration, it is a mulit-centred network model involving synaptic inhibition between antagonistic centres2.

The Phrenic Nerve — Jacqueline Marie Gowan

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This section of our NeuroWiki focuses on the peripheral control of the diaphragm in respect to the phrenic nerve. Phrenic stimulation from the medullary centres causes the diaphragm to contract and flatten, learning to a decrease in pressure in the thoracic cavity, allowing air from the atmosphere to enter the lungs down its concentration gradient3. This section will discuss the risks associated with damaging the phrenic nerve, the reflected symptoms presented in the diaphragm (both unilateral and bilateral), how phrenic nerve damage is diagnosed, as well as treatment strategies. New data concerning the heterogeneity of a possible accessory phrenic nerves is also discussed4.

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