The hypothalamus is a higher center of the autonomic nervous system and maintains essential body homeostasis including respiration. The paraventricular nucleus, perifornical area, dorsomedial hypothalamus, and lateral and posterior hypothalamus are the primary nuclei of the hypothalamus critically involved in respiratory control. These hypothalamic nuclei are interconnected with respiratory nuclei located in the midbrain, pons, medulla and spinal cord. We provide an extensive review of the role of the above hypothalamic nuclei in the maintenance of basal ventilation, and modulation of respiration in hypoxic and hypercapnic conditions, during dynamic exercise, in awake and sleep states, and under stress. Dysfunction of the hypothalamus causes abnormal breathing and hypoventilation. However, the cellular and molecular mechanisms how the hypothalamus integrates and modulates autonomic and respiratory functions remain to be elucidated.
Keywords: Development; Exercise; Hypercapnia; Hypoxia; Orexin; Stress.
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