Activity of respiratory laryngeal motoneurons during fictive coughing and swallowing

Exp Brain Res. 2000 Jan;130(1):27-34. doi: 10.1007/s002210050003.


Membrane potential changes and discharges from 28 laryngeal motoneurons were recorded intracellularly in the caudal nucleus ambiguus of decerebrate, paralyzed and ventilated cats. Electrical activities were recorded from 17 expiratory laryngeal motoneurons (ELMs) with maximal depolarizing membrane potential in early expiration, and from 11 inspiratory laryngeal motoneurons (ILMs) with maximal depolarizing membrane potential in inspiration. Activities during breathing were compared with those observed during fictive coughing and swallowing evoked by electrical stimulation of the superior laryngeal nerves. These non-respiratory behaviors were evidenced in paralyzed animals by characteristic discharge patterns of the phrenic, abdominal nerves and pharyngeal branch of the vagus nerve. We recorded the activity of 11 ELMs and 5 ILMs during coughing in which ELMs, but not ILMs, exhibited increased membrane depolarization and discharge frequencies. Membrane depolarization and discharge frequencies of all ELMs were also significantly increased during swallowing. In addition, membrane depolarization of most ELMs (15/17) was preceded by a short-lasting hyperpolarization due to chloride-dependent inhibitory mechanisms occurring at the onset of swallowing. Out of 10 ILMs tested during swallowing, 7 exhibited membrane depolarization, preceded in 5 cases by a short-lasting hyperpolarization. Discharge frequencies of ILMs were significantly reduced during swallowing. The same pattern of phasic activities of ILMs and ELMs was observed during coughing and breathing, suggesting the involvement of similar excitatory pathways in both behaviors. These results imply that the duration of activation and the discharge frequency of neurons of the central generator for breathing that drive laryngeal motoneurons are enhanced during coughing. During swallowing, in addition to central excitatory mechanisms, laryngeal motoneurons are subjected to an initial inhibition of unknown origin. This inhibition probably contributes to the temporal organization of the swallowing motor sequence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Cough / physiopathology*
  • Decerebrate State
  • Deglutition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Inhalation / physiology
  • Laryngeal Nerves / physiology*
  • Laryngeal Nerves / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*