Neurogenesis, control, and functional significance of gasping

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1990 Apr;68(4):1305-15. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1990.68.4.1305.


Gasps are frequently the first and last breaths of life. Gasping, which is generated by intrinsic medullary mechanisms, differs fundamentally from other automatic ventilatory patterns. A region of the lateral tegmental field of the medulla is critical for the neurogenesis of the gasp but has no role in eupnea. Neuronal mechanisms in separate brain stem regions may be responsible for the neurogenesis of different ventilatory patterns. This hypothesis is supported by the recording of independent respiratory rhythms simultaneously from isolated brain stem segments. Data from fetal and neonatal animals also support gasping and eupnea being generated by separate mechanisms. Gasping may represent the output of a simple but rugged pattern generator that functions as a backup system until the control system for eupnea is developed. Pacemaker elements are hypothesized as underlying the onset of inspiratory activity in gasping. Similar elements, in a different brain stem region, may be responsible for the onset of the eupneic inspiration with neural circuits involving the pons, the medulla, and the spinal cord serving to shape efferent respiratory-modulated neural discharges.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fetus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Medulla Oblongata / physiology
  • Nervous System / embryology
  • Nervous System / growth & development
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*