Intercostal muscle motor behavior during tracheal occlusion conditioning in conscious rats

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2016 Apr 1;120(7):792-800. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00436.2015. Epub 2016 Jan 28.


A respiratory load compensation response is characterized by increases in activation of primary respiratory muscles and/or recruitment of accessory respiratory muscles. The contribution of the external intercostal (EI) muscles, which are a primary respiratory muscle group, during normal and loaded breathing remains poorly understood in conscious animals. Consciousness has a significant role on modulation of respiratory activity, as it is required for the integration of behavioral respiratory responses and voluntary control of breathing. Studies of respiratory load compensation have been predominantly focused in anesthetized animals, which make their comparison to conscious load compensation responses challenging. Using our established model of intrinsic transient tracheal occlusions (ITTO), our aim was to evaluate the motor behavior of EI muscles during normal and loaded breathing in conscious rats. We hypothesized that 1) conscious rats exposed to ITTO will recruit the EI muscles with an increased electromyogram (EMG) activation and 2) repeated ITTO for 10 days would potentiate the baseline EMG activity of this muscle in conscious rats. Our results demonstrate that conscious rats exposed to ITTO respond by recruiting the EI muscle with a significantly increased EMG activation. This response to occlusion remained consistent over the 10-day experimental period with little or no effect of repeated ITTO exposure on the baseline ∫EI EMG amplitude activity. The pattern of activation of the EI muscle in response to an ITTO is discussed in detail. The results from the present study demonstrate the importance of EI muscles during unloaded breathing and respiratory load compensation in conscious rats.

Keywords: conscious state; external intercostal; respiratory neurophysiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Consciousness / physiology*
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Intercostal Muscles / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Respiration
  • Trachea / physiology*