Breathing Neurons

How do we breathe?

Breathing is a seemingly simple, fundamental behavior that occurs about 12 times each minute. In addition, our breath switches between different types, like sighs, yawns, and sniffs, and we must coordinate our breath with other behaviors, like swallowing and coughing. The breathing pacemaker is composed of molecularly definable subsets of neurons that carry out these different tasks. Recently, we have identified neural types, each ~100-200 neurons, that pace basal breathing (Oprm1/Dbx1), switch a normal breath into a sigh breath (Nmbr/Grpr), and relay the breathing signal to a higher brainstem center that promotes arousal (Cdh9/Dbx1). These examples motivate us to continue dissecting the breathing pacemaker molecular diversity and what functions the definable cell types play in breathing. We use many techniques include single cell mRNA sequencing, novel genetics and viruses, in vivo and in vivo electrophysiology, imaging, optogenetics, and multiple ways to measure breathing during various behaviors.


Bachmutsky et. al., 2020