We recorded phrenic nerve activities and single unit firings of mesencephalic neurons in 19 decerebrate, paralyzed and ventilated cats, in which the spinal cord had been transected at C7-T1 and carotid sinus nerves cut but vagus nerves left intact. After we had found neurons with respiratory-associated rhythmic activity, we tested the effect of changing pulmonary vagal input by (1) stopping and restarting the ventilator; (2) changing the ventilator's tidal volume; (3) progressively cooling the vagus nerves to 6-7 degrees C; and (4) vagal section. All methods of testing yielded results that showed that vagal input, probably from pulmonary stretch receptors, tonically inhibits the respiratory-associated firing of the mesencephalic neurons by a direct mechanism that is independent of a vagal effect on medullary respiratory drive. We have suggested that these neurons are involved in the mechanism that conveys information about respiration to the cortex where it may be interpreted as the sensation of dyspnea. If so, movement and increased expansion of the lungs can be expected to lessen the sensation.