Episodic hypoxia or electrical stimulation of carotid chemoafferent neurons elicits a sustained, serotonin-dependent augmentation of respiratory motor output known as long term facilitation (LTF). The primary objectives of this paper are to provide an updated review of the literature pertaining to LTF, to investigate the influence of selected variables on LTF via meta-analysis of a large data set from LTF experiments on anesthetized rats, and to propose an updated mechanism of LTF. LTF has been demonstrated in anesthetized and awake experimental preparations, and can be evoked in some human subjects during sleep. The mechanism underlying LTF requires episodic chemoafferent stimulation, and is not elicited by similar cumulative durations of sustained hypoxia. Meta-analysis of phrenic nerve responses following episodic hypoxia in 63 experiments on anesthetized rats (conducted by four investigators over a period of several years) indicates that phrenic LTF magnitude correlates with peak phrenic responses during hypoxia and hypercapnia, but not with the level of hypoxia during episodic exposures. Potential mechanisms underlying these relationships are discussed, and currently available data are synthesized into an updated mechanistic model of LTF. In this model, we propose that LTF arises predominantly from episodic activation of serotonergic receptors on phrenic motoneurons, activating intracellular kinases and, thus, phosphorylating and potentiating ionic currents associated with the glutamate receptors that mediate respiratory drive.