Upper airway dilating muscle activity is characterized by an early-peaking pattern which serves to dilate or stiffen the upper airway at the time when the greatest negative intraluminal pressure is generated by contraction of chest wall muscles. This pattern has been attributed to phasic afferent inputs from pulmonary stretch receptors. The present study examines the hypothesis that nonvagal factors may also influence the discharge pattern and coordination of upper airway and chest wall muscle activities. Therefore, in anesthetized, paralyzed, vagotomized and artificially ventilated cats, we examined the effects of changes in respiratory drive produced by activation of cholinergic and GA-BAergic (γ-aminobutyric acid) receptors at the ventrolateral aspects of the medulla oblongata on phasic intrabreath discharge patterns of hypoglossal and phrenic nerves. Cholinergic agents (acetylcholine, carbachol, methacholine, physostigmine) applied directly to chemoreceptive areas on the ventral medullary surface increased hypoglossal activity, and in addition converted inspiratory discharge from an augmenting to a decrementing pattern of activity. The reverse effect on the discharge pattern of hypoglossal activity was observed with a decrease in respiratory drive. While the amplitude of the phrenic nerve discharge was also affected by these interventions, the augmenting discharge pattern of phrenic nerve activity did not change. These results suggest that the early peaking pattern of hypoglossal nerve discharge in vagotomized cats also depends on the level of respiratory drive, and is not solely dependent on vagal afferent inputs. In addition, the data suggest that structures near the ventral surface of the medulla are influential in shaping the pattern of hypoglossal nerve activity and maintaining balanced activity of upper airway and chest wall muscles.

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