PublicatiesThe integrated brain network that controls respiration
Respiration is a brain function on which our lives essentially depend. Control of respiration ensures that the frequency and depth of breathing adapt continuously to metabolic needs. In addition, the respiratory control network of the brain has to organize muscular synergies that integrate ventilation with posture and body movement. Finally, respiration is coupled to cardiovascular function and emotion. Here, we argue that the brain can handle this all by integrating a brainstem central pattern generator circuit in a larger network that also comprises the cerebellum. Although currently not generally recognized as a respiratory control center, the cerebellum is well known for its coordinating and modulating role in motor behavior, as well as for its role in the autonomic nervous system. In this review, we discuss the role of brain regions involved in the control of respiration, and their anatomical and functional interactions. We discuss how sensory feedback can result in adaptation of respiration, and how these mechanisms can be compromised by various neurological and psychological disorders. Finally, we demonstrate how the respiratory pattern generators are part of a larger and integrated network of respiratory brain regions.