HCR.20.028 – Unraveling neural control of breathing

Route: Health care research, sickness prevention and treatment

Cluster question: 089 How can we improve our understanding and treatment of pulmonary diseases?

Breathing is like the beating heart, it seemingly happens without thinking. However, neural control of breathing is in fact a very complex and fascinating process. Breathing belongs to the limited number of behaviours that can operate either under an automatic brainstem network or voluntary cortical command. These networks must work closely together to accommodate the complex interaction between metabolic demands (changes in blood pO2, PaCO2 and pH), varying mechanical conditions (e.g. changing posture) and episodic non-ventilatory behaviours (e.g. speaking and eating). Control of breathing can be impaired in many pulmonary diseases and neuromuscular diseases, e.g. COPD, central sleep apnoea syndrome, obesity hypoventilation syndrome, myotonic dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease. Despite its importance, the brain is understudied when it comes to understanding respiratory failure in pulmonary diseases and neuromuscular diseases. The aim of this initiative is to fill this knowledge gap by unravelling the brain’s black box of breathing. To this end, we will use and integrate advanced respiratory neurophysiological techniques, including electro-encephalography (EEG), respiratory-related evoked potentials (RREP), and transcranial motor cortex stimulation (TMS) to study sensorimotor control of breathing in different diseases and the possible effect of interventions. Better understanding of the neural mechanism underlying respiratory failure is of clinical importance. First, it may lead to identification of new potential targets to treat respiratory failure, like pharmacological interventions or modulation of brain activity. Second, it may aid in patient selection and implementation of currently available therapies, like non-invasive ventilation (NIV).


brain, breathing, neural control, neuromuscular disease, pulmonary diseases

Other organisations

IMDI NeuroControl


Organisation Radboud university medical center (RU)
Name Dr. J. (Jonne) Doorduin
E-mail jonne.doorduin@radboudumc.nl
Website http://neurocontrol.nl/dr-jonne-doorduin/