Switching of the respiratory phases and evoked phrenic responses produced by rostral pontine electrical stimulation

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Cohen MI (1971) Switching of the respiratory phases and evoked phrenic responses produced by rostral pontine electrical stimulation. J Physiol 217:1 133–58.

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Abstract: 1. In midcollicular-decerebrate, gallamine-paralysed, vagotomized cats, efferent phrenic discharge was recorded as an indicator of the central respiratory cycle. Electrical stimulation (50-250/sec) delivered in the rostral lateral pontine ;pneumotaxic centre' region (in and near nucleus parabrachialis), and set to occur at specified times in the cycle, produced powerful respiratory effects: (a) at dorsolateral points, inspiratory-facilitatory effects (increase of phrenic discharge, shortening of the expiratory phase); (b) at ventrolateral points, expiratory-facilitatory effects (decrease of phrenic discharge, shortening of the inspiratory phase, lengthening of the expiratory phase).2. At both inspiratory-facilitatory and expiratory-facilitatory points, a single stimulus delivered during the inspiratory phase produced a short-latency (4-7 msec) reduction of phrenic discharge, followed by a wave of increased activity. The short latency of the response indicates the existence of paucisynaptic descending inhibitory pathways. Succeeding stimuli in a high-frequency train produced alternating waves of evoked activity and depression; the form of the responses depended on stimulus frequency and on locus of stimulation.3. At inspiratory-facilitatory points, short stimulus trains (10-30 stimuli) of adequate strength delivered in the middle and late expiratory phase caused early termination of the phase (latency 100-300 msec) and switching to a complete inspiratory phase, in which the phrenic discharge pattern resembled that in a normal inspiratory phase. Similarly, adequate stimulus trains applied at expiratory-facilitatory points during the middle and late inspiratory phase caused early termination of the phase and switching to a complete expiratory phase.4. The threshold for occurrence of each type of phase-switching response depended on stimulus current, frequency, number of stimuli, and time of stimulus delivery. As stimulus trains were delivered later in the phase, the threshold for switching to the succeeding phase was progressively reduced. Moreover, the nature of the evoked effects was a non-linear function of stimulus characteristics: a small increase of stimulus efficacy changed the system's response from (a) moderate shortening of the phase or transient change in phrenic discharge, to (b) complete termination of the phase.5. These results indicate that, as each respiratory phase progresses, there is a steady increase of excitability in systems which promote the onset of the succeeding phase. Further, the existence of a relatively sharp threshold for switching of the respiratory phases suggests that the phase transitions occur when critical levels of excitation and inhibition are reached synchronously in populations of respiratory neurones.




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