Control of ventilation dictates various breathing patterns. The respiratory control system consists of a central pattern generator and several feedback mechanisms that act to maintain ventilation at optimal levels. The concept of loop gain has been employed to describe its stability and variability. Synthesizing all interactions under a general model that could account for every behavior has been challenging. Recent insight into the importance of these feedback systems may unveil therapeutic strategies for common ventilatory disturbances. In this review we will address the major mechanisms that have been proposed as mediators of some of the breathing patterns in health and disease that have raised controversies and discussion on ventilatory control over the years.
Exercise hyperpnea; High altitude; Sleep apnea; Loop gain; Cheyne–Stokes; Oxygen induced hypercapnia; Lung
We compared the effect of oxygen on the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) in 6 obstructive sleep apnea patients with a relatively high loop gain (LG) and 6 with a low LG. LG is a measure of ventilatory control stability. In the high LG group (unstable ventilatory control system), oxygen reduced the LG from 0.69 ± 0.18 to 0.34 ± 0.04 (p < 0.001) and lowered the AHI by 53 ± 33 percent (p = 0.04 compared to the percent reduction in the low LG group). In the low LG group (stable ventilatory control system), oxygen had no effect on LG (0.24 ± 0.04 on room air, 0.29 ± 0.07 on oxygen, p = 0.73) and very little effect on AHI (8 ± 27 percent reduction with oxygen). These data suggest that ventilatory instability is an important mechanism causing obstructive sleep apnea in some patients (those with a relatively high LG), since lowering LG with oxygen in these patients significantly reduces AHI.
We investigated whether the inspiratory muscles affect maximal incremental exercise performance using a placebo-controlled, crossover design. Six cyclists each performed 6 incremental exercise tests. For 3 trials, subjects exercised with proportional assist ventilation (PAV). For the remaining 3 trials, subjects underwent sham respiratory muscle unloading (placebo). Inspiratory muscle pressure (Pmus) was reduced with PAV (−35.9 ± 2.3% vs. placebo; P < 0.05). Furthermore, V̇O2 and perceptions of dyspnea and limb discomfort at submaximal exercise intensities were significantly reduced with PAV. Peak workload, however, was not different between placebo and PAV (324 ± 4 vs. 326 ± 4 W; P > 0.05). Diaphragm fatigue (bilateral phrenic nerve stimulation) did not occur in placebo. In conclusion, substantially unloading the inspiratory muscles did not affect maximal incremental exercise performance. Therefore, our data do not support a role for either inspiratory muscle work or fatigue per se in the limitation of maximal incremental exercise performance.
diaphragm; fatigue; respiratory muscles; dyspnea
We asked whether aged adults are more susceptible to exercise-induced pulmonary edema relative to younger individuals. Lung diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide (DLCO), alveolar-capillary membrane conductance (Dm) and pulmonary-capillary blood volume (Vc) were measured before and after exhaustive discontinuous incremental exercise in 10 young (YNG; 27±3 yr) and 10 old (OLD; 69±5 yr) males. In YNG subjects, Dm increased (11±7%, P=0.031), Vc decreased (−10±9%, P=0.01) and DLCO was unchanged (30.5±4.1 vs. 29.7±2.9 ml/min/mmHg, P=0.44) pre- to post-exercise. In OLD subjects, DLCO and Dm increased (11±14%, P=0.042; 16±14%, P=0.025) but Vc was unchanged (58±23 vs. 56±23 ml, P=0.570) pre- to post-exercise. Group-mean Dm/Vc was greater after vs. before exercise in the YNG and OLD subjects. However, Dm/Vc was lower post-exercise in 2 of the 10 YNG (−7±4%) and 2 of the 10 OLD subjects (−10±5%). These data suggest that exercise decreases interstitial lung fluid in most YNG and OLD subjects, with a small number exhibiting evidence for exercise-induced pulmonary edema.
Lung fluid; alveolar-capillary membrane conductance; aged adults
Anatomical and neurophysiological evidence indicates that thoracic interneurons can serve a commissural function and activate contralateral motoneurons. Accordingly, we hypothesized that respiratory-related intercostal (IC) muscle electromyogram (EMG) activity would be only modestly impaired by a unilateral cervical spinal cord injury. Inspiratory tidal volume (VT) was recorded using pneumotachography and EMG activity was recorded bilaterally from the 1st to 2nd intercostal space in anesthetized, spontaneously breathing rats. Studies were conducted at 1–3 days, 2 wks or 8 wks following C2 spinal cord hemisection (C2HS). Data were collected during baseline breathing and a brief respiratory challenge (7% CO2). A substantial reduction in inspiratory intercostal EMG bursting ipsilateral to the lesion was observed at 1–3 days post-C2HS. However, a time-dependent return of activity occurred such that by 2 wks post-injury inspiratory intercostal EMG bursts ipsilateral to the lesion were similar to age-matched, uninjured controls. The increases in ipsilateral intercostal EMG activity occurred in parallel with increases in VT following the injury (R = 0.55; P < 0.001). We conclude that plasticity occurring within a “crossed-intercostal” circuitry enables a robust, spontaneous recovery of ipsilateral intercostal activity following C2HS in rats.
Spinal cord injury; Intercostal; Plasticity
The metabolic hypothesis of carotid body chemoreceptor hypoxia transduction proposes an impairment of ATP production as the signal for activation. We hypothesized that mitochondrial complex IV blockers and hypoxia would act synergistically in exciting afferent nerve activity. Following a pretreatment with low dosage sodium cyanide (10-20μM), the hypoxia-induced nerve response was significantly reduced along with hypoxia-induced catecholamine release. However, in isolated glomus cells, the intracellular calcium response was enhanced as initially predicted. This suggests a cyanide-mediated impairment in the step between the glomus cell intracellular calcium rise and neurotransmitter release from secretory vesicles. Administration of a PKC blocker largely reversed the inhibitory actions of cyanide on the neural response. We conclude that the expected synergism between cyanide and hypoxia occurs at the level of glomus cell intracellular calcium but not at downstream steps due to a PKC-dependent inhibition of secretion. This suggests that at least one regulatory step beyond the glomus cell calcium response may modulate the magnitude of chemoreceptor responsiveness.
carotid body; chemoreceptors; hypoxia; calcium; mitochondria
Recruitment of alveolar microvascular reserves, assessed from the relationship between pulmonary diffusing capacity (DLCO) and perfusion (Q̇c), is critical to maintenance of arterial blood oxygenation. Leptin-resistant ZDF fatty diabetic (fa/fa) rats exhibit restricted cardiopulmonary physiology under anesthesia. To assess alveolar microvascular function in conscious, non-sedated, non-instrumented, and minimally restrained animals, we adapted a rebreathing technique to fa/fa and control non-diabetic (+/+) rats (4-5 and 7-11 mo old) at rest and mild spontaneous activity. Measurements included O2 uptake, lung volume, Q̇c, DLCO, membrane diffusing capacity (DMCO), capillary blood volume (Vc) and septal tissue-blood volume. In older fa/fa than +/+ animals, DLCO and DMCO at a given Q̇c were lower; Vc was reduced in proportion to Q̇c. Results demonstrate the consequences of alveolar microangiopathy in metabolic syndrome: lung volume restriction, reduced Q̇c, and elevated membrane resistance to diffusion. At a given Q̇c, DLCO is lower in rats and guinea pigs than dogs or humans, consistent with limited alveolar microvascular reserves in small animals.
Lung diffusing capacity; pulmonary blood flow; obesity; type-2 diabetes mellitus; metabolic syndrome; alveolar microangiopathy
Obstructive sleep apnea represents a significant public health concern. Afferent vagal activation is implicated in increased apnea susceptibility by reducing upper airway muscle tone via activation of serotonin receptors in the nodose ganglia. Previous investigations demonstrated that systemically administered cannabinoids can be used therapeutically to decrease the apnea/hypopnea index in rats and in humans. However, cannabinoids have effects on both the central and peripheral nervous systems, and the exact mechanism of decreased apnea/hypopnea index with cannabinoids is unknown. Here, we hypothesized that intranodose ganglion injections of a cannabinoid will attenuate 5-HT-induced reflex apnea and increase upper airway muscle tone. We show that dronabinol injected locally into the nodose ganglia suppresses 5-HT-induced reflex apnea, and increases phasic, but not tonic, activation of the genioglossus. These data support the view that dronabinol stabilizes respiratory pattern and augments upper airway muscles by acting at the nodose ganglia. These findings underscore a therapeutic potential of dronabinol for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea.
OSA; serotonin; cannabinoids; dronabinol; nodose ganglia; genioglossus
Prior studies exploring the spatial distributions of ventilation and perfusion have partitioned the lung into discrete regions not constrained by anatomical boundaries and may blur regional differences in perfusion and ventilation. To characterize the anatomical heterogeneity of regional ventilation and perfusion, we administered fluorescent microspheres to mark regional ventilation and perfusion in 5 Sprague-Dawley rats and then using highly automated computer algorithms, partitioned the lungs into regions defined by anatomical structures identified in the images. The anatomical regions ranged in size from the nearacinar to the lobar level. Ventilation and perfusion were well correlated at the smallest anatomical level. Perfusion and ventilation heterogeneity were relatively less in rats compared to data previously published in larger animals. The more uniform distributions may be due to a smaller gravitational gradient and/or the fewer number of generations in the distribution trees before reaching the level of gas exchange, making regional matching of ventilation and perfusion less extensive in small animals.
Regional pulmonary blood flow; Regional ventilation; Ventilation-perfusion matching; Gas exchange; Functional unit of gas exchange; Imaging
In previous calculations of how the O2 transport system limits V̇O2max, it was reasonably assumed that mitochondrial PO2 (PmO2) could be neglected (set to zero). However, in reality, PmO2 must exceed zero and the red cell to mitochondrion diffusion gradient may therefore be reduced, impairing diffusive transport of O2 and V̇O2max. Accordingly, we investigated the influence of PmO2 on these calculations by coupling previously used equations for O2 transport to one for mitochondrial respiration relating mitochondrial V̇O2 to PO2. This hyperbolic function, characterized by its P50 and V̇MAX, allowed PmO2 to become a model output (rather than set to zero as previously). Simulations using data from exercising normal subjects showed that at V̇O2max, PmO2was usually < 1 mm Hg, and that the effects on V̇O2max were minimal. However, when O2 transport capacity exceeded mitochondrial V̇MAX, or if P50 were elevated, PmO2 often reached double digit values, thereby reducing the diffusion gradient and significantly decreasing V̇O2max.
bioenergetics; mitochondrial respiration; mitochondrial PO2; oxygen transport; V̇O2max
Airway protection is the prevention and/or removal of material by behaviors, such as cough and swallow. We tested the hypothesis that cough and swallow, in response to aspiration, are a “meta-behavior” and thus are coordinated and have alterations in excitability to respond to aspiration risk and maintain homeostasis. Anesthetized animals were challenged with a protocol that simulated ongoing aspiration and induced both coughing and swallowing. Electromyograms of the mylohyoid, geniohyoid, thyrohyoid, thyroarytenoid, thyropharyngeus, cricopharyngeus, parasternal, rectus abdominis muscles together with esophageal pressure were recorded to identify and evaluate cough and swallow. During simulated aspiration, both cough and swallow intensity increased and swallow duration decreased consistent with a more rapid pharyngeal clearance. A phase restriction between cough and swallow was also observed; swallow was restricted to the E2 phase of cough during chest wall and abdominal motor quiescence. These results support the conclusion that the cough and swallow pattern generators are an airway protective meta-behavior. The resulting alterations in swallow drive during the simulated aspiration protocol also supports the conclusion that the trachea provides feedback on swallow quality, informing the brainstem about aspiration incidences. The overall coordination of cough and swallow led to the additional conclusion that mechanically the larynx and upper esophageal sphincter act as two separate valves controlling the direction of positive and negative pressures from the upper airway into the thorax.
dysphagia; dystussia; airway protection; geniohyoid; mylohyoid; thyrohyoid; thyroarytenoid; thyropharyngeus; inferior pharyngeal constrictor; cricopharyngeus; upper esophageal sphincter; parasternal; inspiratory; inspiration; rectus abdominis; expiratory; expiration; compression; pharyngeal clearance; electromyography; EMG; pressure; esophageal; pharynx; esophagus; oral cavity
Obesity is a national health issue in the US. Among the many physiological changes induced by obesity, it also presents a unique challenge to ventilatory control during exercise due to increased metabolic demand of moving larger limbs, increased work of breathing due to extra weight on the chest wall, and changes in breathing mechanics. These challenges to ventilatory control in obesity can be inconspicuous or overt among obese adults but for the most part adaptation of ventilatory control during exercise in obesity appears remarkably unnoticed in the majority of obese people. In this brief review, the changes to ventilatory control required for maintaining normal ventilation during exercise will be examined, especially the interaction between respiratory neural drive and ventilation. Also, gaps in our current knowledge will be discussed.
Respiratory neural drive; respiratory neural output; ventilation; ventilatory response to exercise; gas exchange; exercise hyperpnea
Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), or chronic lung disease of prematurity, occurs in ~30% of preterm infants (15,000 per year) and is associated with a clinical history of mechanical ventilation and/or high inspired oxygen at birth. Here, we describe changes in ventilatory control that exist in patients with BPD, including alterations in chemoreceptor function, respiratory muscle function, and suprapontine control. Because dysfunction in ventilatory control frequently revealed when O2 supply and CO2 elimination are challenged, we provide this information in the context of four important metabolic stressors: stresses: exercise, sleep, hypoxia, and lung disease, with a primary focus on studies of human infants, children, and adults. As a secondary goal, we also identify three key areas of future research and describe the benefits and challenges of longitudinal human studies using well-defined patient cohorts.
Bronchopulmonary dysplasia; premature infant; ventilatory control; peripheral chemoreceptors; carotid bodies; central chemoreceptors; exercise; hypoxia; sleep; lung disease
In many neurological disorders that disrupt spinal function and compromise breathing (e.g. ALS, cervical spinal injury, MS), patients often maintain ventilatory capacity well after the onset of severe CNS pathology. In progressive neurodegenerative diseases, patients ultimately reach a point where compensation is no longer possible, leading to catastrophic ventilatory failure. In this brief review, we consider evidence that common mechanisms of compensatory respiratory plasticity preserve breathing capacity in diverse clinical disorders, despite the onset of severe pathology (e.g. respiratory motor neuron denervation and/or death). We propose that a suite of mechanisms, operating at distinct sites in the respiratory control system, underlies compensatory respiratory plasticity, including: 1) increased (descending) central respiratory drive, 2) motor neuron plasticity, 3) plasticity at the neuromuscular junction or spared respiratory motor neurons, and 4) shifts in the balance from more to less severely compromised respiratory muscles. To establish this framework, we contrast three rodent models of neural dysfunction, each posing unique problems for the generation of adequate inspiratory motor output: 1) respiratory motor neuron death, 2) de- or dysmyelination of cervical spinal pathways, and 3) cervical spinal cord injury, a neuropathology with components of demyelination and motor neuron death. Through this contrast, we hope to understand the multilayered strategies used to “fight” for adequate breathing in the face of mounting pathology.
respiratory control; spinal cord; demyelination; spinal injury; motor neuron disease
Multiple forms of plasticity are activated following reduced respiratory neural activity. For example, in ventilated rats, a central neural apnea elicits a rebound increase in phrenic and hypoglossal burst amplitude upon resumption of respiratory neural activity, forms of plasticity called inactivity-induced phrenic and hypoglossal motor facilitation (iPMF and iHMF), respectively. Here, we provide a conceptual framework for plasticity following reduced respiratory neural activity to guide future investigations. We review mechanisms giving rise to iPMF and iHMF, present new data suggesting that inactivity-induced plasticity is observed in inspiratory intercostals (iIMF) and point out gaps in our knowledge. We then survey conditions relevant to human health characterized by reduced respiratory neural activity and discuss evidence that inactivity-induced plasticity is elicited during these conditions. Understanding the physiological impact and circumstances in which inactivity-induced respiratory plasticity is elicited may yield novel insights into the treatment of disorders characterized by reductions in respiratory neural activity.
Facilitation; Activity deprivation; Control of breathing; Respiratory Plasticity; Central apnea; Spinal injury
Pediatric sleep disordered breathing (PSDB) is not only a very frequent condition affecting 2–4% of all children, but is also associated with an increased risk for a variety of manifestations underlying end-organ injury and dysfunction that impose both immediate and potentially long-term morbidities and corresponding inherent elevations in healthcare costs. One of the major problems with the creation of valid algorithms aiming to stratify diagnostic and treatment prioritization lies in our current inability to predict and identify those children who are most at-risk for PSDB-induced adverse consequences. Thus, improved our understanding of the mechanisms governing phenotype variance in PSDB is essential. Here, we examine some of the potential underpinnings of phenotypic variability in PSDB, and further propose a conceptual framework aimed at facilitating the process of advancing knowledge in this frequent disorder.
Most patients are easily liberated from mechanical ventilation (MV) following resolution of respiratory failure and a successful trial of spontaneous breathing, but about 25% of patients experience difficult weaning. MV use leads to cellular changes and weakness, which has been linked to weaning difficulties and has been labeled ventilator induced diaphragm dysfunction (VIDD). Aggravating factors in human studies with prolonged weaning include malnutrition, chronic electrolyte abnormalities, hyperglycemia, excessive resistive and elastic loads, corticosteroids, muscle relaxant exposure, sepsis and compromised cardiac function. Numerous animal studies have investigated the effects of MV on diaphragm function. Virtually all of these studies have concluded that MV use rapidly leads to VIDD and have identified cellular and molecular mechanisms of VIDD. Molecular and functional studies on the effects of MV on the human diaphragm have largely confirmed the animal results and identified potential treatment strategies. Only recently have potential VIDD treatments been tested in humans, including pharmacologic interventions and diaphragm “training”. A limited number of human studies have found that specific diaphragm training can increase respiratory muscle strength in FTW patients and facilitate weaning, but larger, multicenter trials are needed.
ventilator weaning; ventilator induced diaphragm dysfunction; diaphragm strength training
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is defined as the sudden and unexpected death of an infant less than 12 months of age that is related to a sleep period and remains unexplained after a complete autopsy, death scene investigation, and review of the clinical history. The cause of SIDS is unknown, but a major subset of SIDS is proposed to result from abnormalities in serotonin (5-HT) and related neurotransmitters in regions of the lower brainstem that result in failure of protective homeostatic responses to life-threatening challenges during sleep. Multiple studies have implicated gene variants that affect different elements of 5-HT neurotransmission in the pathogenesis of these abnormalities in SIDS. In this review I discuss the data from these studies together with some new data correlating genotype with brainstem 5-HT neurochemistry in the same SIDS cases and conclude that these gene variants are unlikely to play a major role in the pathogenesis of the medullary 5-HT abnormalities observed in SIDS.
Diaphragm pacing is a clinically useful modality providing artificial ventilatory support in patients with ventilator dependent spinal cord injury. Since this technique is successful in providing full-time ventilatory support in only ~50% of patients, better methods are needed. In this paper, we review a novel method of inspiratory muscle activation involving the application of electrical stimulation applied to the ventral surface of the upper thoracic spinal cord at high stimulus frequencies (300 Hz). In an animal model, high frequency spinal cord stimulation (HF-SCS) results in synchronous activation of both the diaphragm and inspiratory intercostal muscles. Since this method results in an asynchronous pattern of EMG activity and mean peak firing frequencies similar to those observed during spontaneous breathing, HF-SCS is a more physiologic form of inspiratory muscle activation. Further, ventilation can be maintained on a long-term basis with repetitive stimulation at low stimulus amplitudes (<1 mA). These preliminary results suggest that HF-SCS holds promise as a more successful method of inspiratory muscle pacing.
Spinal cord injury; Spinal cord stimulation; Inspiratory muscles; Diaphragm pacing
Respiratory dysfunction is one of the most devastating consequences of cervical spinal cord injury (SCI) with impaired breathing being a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in this population. However, there is mounting experimental and clinical evidence for moderate spontaneous respiratory recovery, or “plasticity”, after some spinal cord injuries. Pre-clinical models of respiratory dysfunction following SCI have demonstrated plasticity at neural and behavioral levels that result in progressive recovery of function. Temporal changes in respiration after human SCI have revealed some functional improvements suggesting plasticity paralleling that seen in experimental models – a concept that has been previously under-appreciated. While the extent of spontaneous recovery remains limited, it is possible that enhancing or facilitating neuroplastic mechanisms may have significant therapeutic potential. The next generation of treatment strategies for SCI and related respiratory dysfunction should aim to optimize these recovery processes of the injured spinal cord for lasting functional restoration.
In skeletal muscles, motor units comprise a motoneuron and the group of muscle fibers innervated by it, which are usually classified based on myosin heavy chain isoform expression. Motor units displaying diverse contractile and fatigue properties are important in determining the range of motor behaviors that can be accomplished by a muscle. Muscle fiber atrophy and weakness may disproportionately affect specific fiber types across a variety of diseases or clinical conditions, thus impacting neuromotor control. In this regard, fiber atrophy that affects a specific fiber type will alter the relative contribution of different motor units to overall muscle structure and function. For example, in various diseases there is fairly selective atrophy of type IIx and/or IIb fibers comprising the strongest yet most fatigable motor units. As a result, there is muscle weakness (i.e., reductions in force per cross-sectional area) associated with an apparent improvement in resistance to fatiguing contractions. This review will examine neuromotor control of respiratory muscles such as the diaphragm muscle and the impact of muscle fiber atrophy on motor performance.
Apnea, the cessation of breathing, is a common physiological and pathophysiological phenomenon with many basic scientific and clinical implications. Among the different forms of apnea, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is clinically the most prominent manifestation. OSA is characterized by repetitive airway occlusions that are typically associated with peripheral airway obstructions. However, it would be a gross oversimplification to conclude that OSA is caused by peripheral obstructions. OSA is the result of a dynamic interplay between chemo- and mechanosensory reflexes, neuromodulation, behavioral state and the differential activation of the central respiratory network and its motor outputs. This interplay has numerous neuronal and cardiovascular consequences that are initially adaptive but in the long-term become major contributors to the morbidity and mortality associated with OSA. However, not only OSA, but all forms of apnea have multiple, and partly overlapping mechanisms. In all cases the underlying mechanisms are neither “exclusively peripheral” nor “exclusively central” in origin. While the emphasis has long been on the role of peripheral reflex pathways in the case of OSA, and central mechanisms in the case of central apneas, we are learning that such a separation is inconsistent with the integration of these mechanisms in all cases of apneas. This review discusses the complex interplay of peripheral and central nervous components that characterizes the cessation of breathing.
Pompe disease is due to mutations in the gene encoding the lysosomal enzyme acid α-glucosidase (GAA). Absence of functional GAA typically results in cardiorespiratory failure in the first year; reduced GAA activity is associated with progressive respiratory failure later in life. While skeletal muscle pathology contributes to respiratory insufficiency in Pompe disease, emerging evidence indicates that respiratory neuron dysfunction is also a significant part of dysfunction in motor units. Animal models show profound glycogen accumulation in spinal and medullary respiratory neurons and altered neural activity. Tissues from Pompe patients show central nervous system glycogen accumulation and motoneuron pathology. A neural mechanism raises considerations about the current clinical approach of enzyme replacement since the recombinant protein does not cross the blood-brain-barrier. Indeed, clinical data suggest that enzyme replacement therapy delays symptom progression, but many patients eventually require ventilatory assistance, especially during sleep. We propose that treatments which restore GAA activity to respiratory muscles, neurons and networks will be required to fully correct ventilatory insufficiency in Pompe disease.
Pompe; Respiratory; Motoneurons; Plasticity; Therapy; Pathology