Using the in situ arterially perfused preparations of both neonatal and juvenile rats, we provide the first description of the location, morphology and transmitter content of a population of respiratory neurones that retains a bursting behaviour after ionotropic receptor blockade. All burster neurones exhibited an inspiratory discharge during eupnoeic respiration. These neurones were predominantly glutamatergic, and were located within a region of the ventral respiratory column that encompasses the pre-Bötzinger complex and the more caudally located ventral respiratory group. Bursting behaviour was both voltage and persistent sodium current dependent and could be stimulated by sodium cyanide to activate this persistent sodium current. The population of burster neurones may overlap with that previously described in the neonatal slice in vitro. Based upon the present and previous findings, we hypothesize that this burster discharge may be released when the brain is subject to severe hypoxia or ischaemia, and that this burster discharge could underlie gasping.