Cough-related neural processing in the brain: a roadmap for cough dysfunction?

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2014 Nov;47:457-68. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.09.018. Epub 2014 Oct 6.


Cough is a complex respiratory behavior essential for airway protection, consisting of sensory, motor, affective and cognitive attributes. Accordingly, the cough neural circuitry extends beyond a simple pontomedullary reflex arc to incorporate a network of neurons that are also widely distributed throughout the subcortical and cortical brain. Studies have described discrete regional responses in the brain that likely give rise to sensory discriminative processes, voluntary and urge-related cough control mechanisms and aspects of the emotive responses following airways irritation and coughing. Data from these studies highlight the central nervous system as a plausible target for therapeutic intervention and, consistent with this, a careful appraisal of the many and varied clinical disorders of coughing control would argue that more diversified therapies are needed to treat patients with cough dysfunction. In this paper we explore these concepts in detail to highlight unanswered questions and stimulate discussion for potential research of cough in the future.

Keywords: Cough dysfunction; Cough hypersensitivity; Urge-to-cough; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cough / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Reflex / physiology*