Neural correlates of voluntary breathing in humans

Douglas Corfield, L. C. McKay, K. C. Evans, R. S J Frackowiak, D. R. Corfield

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    To investigate the functional neuroanatomy of voluntary respiratory control, blood O2 level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging was performed in six healthy right-handed individuals during voluntary hyperpnea. Functional images of the whole brain were acquired during 30-s periods of spontaneous breathing alternated with 30-s periods of isocapnic hyperpnea [spontaneous vs. voluntary: tidal volume = 0.5 ± 0.01 vs. 1.3 ± 0.1 (SE) liters and breath duration = 4.0 ± 0.4 vs. 3.2 ± 0.4 (SE) s]. For the group, voluntary hyperpnea was associated with significant (P <0.05, corrected for multiple comparisons) neural activity bilaterally in the primary sensory and motor cortices, supplementary motor area, cerebellum, thalamus, caudate nucleus, and globus pallidum. Significant increases in activity were also identified in the medulla (corrected for multiple comparisons on the basis of a small volume correction for a priori region of interest) in a superior dorsal position (P = 0.012). Activity within the medulla suggests that the brain stem respiratory centers may have a role in mediating the voluntary control of breathing in humans.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1170-1178
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2003


    • Brain stem
    • Cortex
    • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
    • Respiratory control


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