Relationships between hippocampal activity and breathing patterns

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Harper RM, Poe GR, Rector DM, and Kristensen MP (1998) Relationships between hippocampal activity and breathing patterns. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 22:2 233–236.

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Abstract: Single cell discharge, EEG activity, and optical changes accompanying alterations in breathing patterns, as well as the knowledge that respiratory musculature is heavily involved in movement and other behavioral acts, implicate hippocampal regions in some aspects of breathing control. The control is unlikely to reside in oscillatory breathing movements, because such patterns emerge in preparations retaining only the medulla (and perhaps only the spinal cord). However, momentary changes in breathing patterns induced by affect, startle, whole-body movement changes, or compensatory ventilatory changes mediated by rostral brain regions likely depend on hippocampal action in aspects of control. Hippocampal activity was enhanced prior to sighs, and this enhancement was accompanied by increased slow theta activity. Theta frequency increased during apnea, prior to return of breathing. Consideration of hippocampal contributions to breathing control should be viewed in the context that significant interactions exist between blood pressure changes and ventilation, and that modest breathing challenges, such as exposure to hypercapnia or to increased resistive loads, bring into action a vast array of brain regions involving nearly every level of the neuraxis.

Keywords: Respiration, Optical imaging, Apnea, Sigh, Sleep


  • Overview of hippocampal contribution to non-periodic aspects of respiratory function such as sighing and startle reactions. Cites Ruit and Neafsey regarding the effect of hippocampal stimulation on respiration and several studies considering changes in hippocampal rhythmic activity during breathholding or other tasks. Draws on intrinsic imaging data obtained by the authors of changes in hippocampal signal that followed apnea or preceded sighs, and reviews evidence from anatomical studies of hippocampal descending control of respiration.


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