Respiratory, Autonomic, & Sleep Disorders

The seemingly simple task of breathing belies the deceptively complex control system our body uses for respiration.  In day to day functioning, respiratory networks need to adapt to external changes in the environment, to our own movements, behaviors, and state of arousal. In order to properly adapt, the respiratory network can be altered by neuromodulators as well as peripheral and central chemoreceptors that monitor the pO2 and pCO2 levels in the blood. The respiratory network itself is a highly complex network located in the ventral brainstem and is composed of interconnected neural populations that coordinate inspiration and expiration. The preBotzinger Complex is considered the core of inspiratory rhythm. However, breathing is not only important for regulating blood gases. Most arousals start with a sigh or gasp, speech and song are complex breathing behaviors, breathing can regulate fear and control cognitive states. If we have a good idea we say we are “inspired”, we would never state we are “expired”. Sighs are intimately related to our feelings. We sigh not only when in panic and pain, but also during relaxation and relief.

By studying the neural control of breathing, we provide not only insights into the cellular mechanisms that underlie sighing, gasping and breathing, but we have also generated novel insights into diseases (see Disorders of Breathing and Clinical Implications) such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Rett syndrome, Central Congenital Hypoventilation Syndrome (CCHS), Sudden unexplained Death of Epilepsy (SUDEP), Obstructive and Central Sleep Apnea, Familial Dysautonomia and Leigh Syndrome. These diseases are intricately linked to abnormal breathing patterns and likely involve alterations in neuromodulatory pathways and arousal mechanisms. We are especially interested in the effects of hypoxia on the cellular properties of neurons within the respiratory network as well as its effect on network configuration. Our laboratory employs both in vivo and in vitro preparations and uses electrophysiological, imaging, optogenetic, and computational modeling approaches to study the dynamics of the respiratory network and the mechanisms of respiratory rhythm generation (see “The Respiratory Network: Plasticity, Network Dynamics, Intrinsic and Synaptic Properties and Neuromodulation.”

The goal of CIBR investigators is to understand the neuronal basis of a variety of brain functions to find novel ways to treat and cure neurological disorders related to respiratory dysfunctions: Central and Obstructive Sleep apnea, Rett syndrome, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

CIBR Investigators

  • Franck Kalume, PhD
  • Nino Ramirez, PhD
  • John Welsh, PhD

Current Projects

The Respiratory Network: Plasticity, Network Dynamics, Intrinsic and Synaptic Properties, and Neuromodulation

Disorders of Breathing and Clinical Implications

Global Brain Hypoxia

Recent Publications in Respiratory, Autonomic and Sleep Click here

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