Neural mechanisms for sigh generation during prenatal development

Muriel Thoby-Brisson
Journal of Neurophysiology. 2018-09-01; 120(3): 1162-1172
DOI: 10.1152/jn.00314.2018

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The respiratory network of the preBötzinger complex (preBötC), which controls inspiratory behavior, can in normal conditions simultaneously produce two types of inspiration-related rhythmic activities: the eupneic rhythm composed of monophasic, low-amplitude, and relatively high-frequency bursts, interspersed with sigh rhythmic activity, composed of biphasic, high-amplitude, and lower frequency bursts. By combining electrophysiological recordings from transverse brainstem slices with computational modeling, new advances in the mechanisms underlying sigh production have been obtained during prenatal development. The present review summarizes recent findings that establish when sigh rhythmogenesis starts to be produced during embryonic development as well as the cellular, membrane, and synaptic properties required for its expression. Together, the results demonstrate that although generated by the same network, the eupnea and sigh rhythms have different developmental onset times and rely on distinct network properties. Because sighs (also known as augmented breaths) are important in maintaining lung function (by reopening collapsed alveoli), gaining insight into their underlying neural mechanisms at early developmental stages is likely to help in the treatment of prematurely born babies often suffering from breathing deficiencies.

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