How is it co-opted by and coordinated with other behaviors?

Breathing is such a fundamental, innate behavior. Yet, we also have the amazing capacity to immediately stop or alter it, like when we speak, cry, swallow, or hold our breath and even the type of breath we take can be regulated by our emotions, like a “sigh of relief”. This is in stark contrast to the body’s other key rhythm, our heartbeat. To understand how this occurs, we have focused our efforts towards understanding how innate vocalizations, like neonatal cries, are timed and coordinated with the breath.

Vocalizations are created by a stereotyped motor pattern and contain rhythmically timed elements, like syllables. This implies a ‘central pattern generator’ underlies vocal production. We have identified a novel brainstem vocalization CPG, called iRO, that coordinates the muscles for neonatal cry vocalizations (like the larynx) with breathing. Also, the iRO produces an intrinsic rhythm that times the occurrence of rhythmic cry syllables within the breath.


Optogenetic stimulation of the iRO induces neonatal cry bouts