Anatomy and neurophysiology of the cough reflex: ACCP evidence-based clinical practice guidelines

Chest. 2006 Jan;129(1 Suppl):33S-47S. doi: 10.1378/chest.129.1_suppl.33S.


Objectives: To describe the anatomy and neurophysiology of the cough reflex.

Methods: A review of the literature was carried out using PubMed and the ISI Web of Knowledge from 1951 to 2004. Most of the referenced studies were carried out in animals

Conclusions: Studies carried out in animals provide suggestive but inconclusive evidence that C-fibers and rapidly adapting receptors (RARs) arising from the vagus nerves mediate coughing. Recent studies also have suggested that a vagal afferent nerve subtype that is not readily classified as a RAR or a C-fiber may play an important role in regulating cough. Afferent nerves innervating other viscera, as well as somatosensory nerves innervating the chest wall, diaphragm, and abdominal musculature also likely play a less essential but important accessory role in regulating cough. The responsiveness and morphology of the airway vagal afferent nerve subtypes and the extrapulmonary afferent nerves that regulate coughing are described.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bronchial Spasm / physiopathology
  • Cough / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Respiratory Muscles / innervation
  • Respiratory Muscles / physiology
  • Respiratory System / innervation*
  • Respiratory System / physiopathology
  • Vagus Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Vagus Nerve / physiology