We studied the capacity of four "normal" and six lung transplant subjects to entrain neural respiratory activity to mechanical ventilation. Two transplant subjects were studied during wakefulness and demonstrated entrainment indistinguishable from that of normal awake subjects. We studied four normal subjects and four lung transplant subjects during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Normal subjects entrained to mechanical ventilation over a range of ventilator frequencies that were within +/-3-5 breaths of the spontaneous respiratory rate of each subject. After lung transplantation, during which the vagi were cut, subjects did demonstrate entrainment during NREM sleep; however, entrainment only occurred at ventilator frequencies at or above each subject's spontaneous respiratory rate, and entrainment was less effective. We conclude that there is no absolute requirement for vagal feedback to induce entrainment in subjects, which is in striking contrast to anesthetized animals in which vagotomy uniformly abolishes entrainment. On the other hand, vagal feedback clearly enhances the fidelity of entrainment and extends the range of mechanical frequencies over which entrainment can occur.