Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mechanism That Allows 2 Pacemakers To Control Breathing Pieced Together

Date:
November 7, 2008
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
Two pacemakers in the brain work together in harmony to ensure that breathing occurs in a regular rhythm, according to new research. That cooperation provides critical backup during respiratory stress, from the early trauma of birth to intense exercise and oxygen shortages, said the principal research scientist at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.

Two pacemakers in the brain work together in harmony to ensure that breathing occurs in a regular rhythm, according to new research from MIT scientists.

That cooperation provides critical backup during respiratory stress, from the early trauma of birth to intense exercise and oxygen shortages, said Chi-Sang Poon, principal research scientist at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST).

"The two-pacemaker system provides robustness and redundancy that protects us against a number of challenges from childhood to adulthood," said Poon, senior author of a paper on the work appearing in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of Nov. 3.

Abnormities of the two pacemakers may be related to some cases of "crib death" in babies and some forms of central sleep apnea, which can affect premature infants and the elderly, Poon said.

Scientists have known that two areas of the brain, the pre-Botzinger complex (preBotC) and the parafacial respiratory group (pFRG), control breathing. However, researchers have hotly debated how these two regions work together, and which one plays a greater role in setting the pace.

The new MIT model, which Poon has dubbed the "handshake model," reconciles several different views.

In Poon's model, developed with graduate student Steffen Wittmeier, lead author of the paper, both brain regions work together to regulate respiration during infancy, but the preBotC takes control during adulthood.

Early in life, both pacemakers are needed. After birth, and throughout infancy, the pFRG triggers preBotC, resulting in strong, rhythmic breaths. Without pFRG, breathing can be weak and erratic, Poon said.

However, after childhood, the preBotC region takes over as the dominant pacemaker. Only under respiratory stress, such as during shortage of oxygen, does pFRG kick in and help regulate breathing rhythm.

The new model is called the "handshake model" because the two pacemakers send signals back and forth to trigger each other. "It's not just a one-way street," Poon said.

The fail-safe network provides critical backup and appears to be evolutionarily conserved, as it is also found in reptiles, birds and amphibians.

During infancy, when both pacemakers are regulating breathing, the pFRG takes the lead role, exciting the preBotC to initiate inhalation. During inhalation, the preBotC inhibits pFRG but the pFRG rebounds at the end of inhalation. The process starts over when pFRG excites preBotC again at the end of exhalation.

Later on, in adulthood, pFRG becomes less important and preBotC becomes more independent. The exception is during respiratory stress, such as a shortage of oxygen. In those situations, the system becomes a "reverse handshake," with both pacemakers functioning and preBotC taking the lead.

"This is a beautiful example of a yin-yang relationship," said Poon, with pacemakers exciting and inhibiting one another. "You want to be stable so you can have harmony."

Other authors of the paper are Gang Song, research scientist in HST, and James Duffin of the University of Toronto.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Mechanism That Allows 2 Pacemakers To Control Breathing Pieced Together." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081103192308.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2008, November 7). Mechanism That Allows 2 Pacemakers To Control Breathing Pieced Together. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081103192308.htm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Mechanism That Allows 2 Pacemakers To Control Breathing Pieced Together." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081103192308.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Electrical Stimulation Boosts Brain Function, Study Says

Electrical Stimulation Boosts Brain Function, Study Says

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) Researchers found an improvement in memory and learning function in subjects who received electric pulses to their brains. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins