Muscular, bronchomotor and cardiovascular reflexes elicited by mechanical stimulation of the respiratory tract

J Physiol. 1969 Jan;200(1):25-49. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1969.sp008680.


1. The effects of mechanical stimulation in the nose, epipharynx, laryngopharynx and tracheobronchial tree, and of chemical irritation of the nasal mucosa, were studied on various somatic and autonomic functions in cats.2. Action potentials were recorded from the diaphragm and rectus abdominis muscles of spontaneously breathing cats, and from the phrenic and lumbar nerves of paralysed, artificially ventilated cats. Expulsive processes such as sneezing and coughing evoked from the nasal, laryngopharyngeal and tracheobronchial mucosae were characterized by strong diaphragmatic and abdominal expiratory discharges; synchronous discharges in these antagonistic respiratory muscles and their motoneurones often occurred especially during laryngopharyngeal stimulation of coughing.3. The ;aspiration reflex' elicited from the epipharynx was characterized by brief bursts of high-frequency activity in the phrenic nerve and diaphragm, and was usually not followed by any expiratory activity in the rectus abdominis or its motoneurones.4. In paralysed, artificially ventilated cats stimulation of the laryngeal and tracheobronchial regions caused large increases both in total lung resistance and in tracheal constrictor nerve fibre activity, indicating reflex tracheo-bronchoconstriction; similar stimulation of the epipharyngeal and nasal mucosae decreased both total lung resistance and tracheal constrictor nerve fibre activity, indicating reflex bronchodilation.5. In paralysed cats, stimulation of each of the four sites in the respiratory tract caused a reflex increase in systemic blood pressure, the largest hypertensive response coming from the epipharynx. Nervous activity in cervical sympathetic efferent fibres was increased by the stimulations, especially those of the epipharyngeal and laryngopharyngeal regions.6. There was good correlation in time and magnitude between the changes in total lung resistance and in bronchoconstrictor fibre activity, and also between the changes in blood pressure and in efferent sympathetic discharge, although the mechanical changes lagged behind the nervous ones.7. In anaesthetized, spontaneously breathing cats stimulation of the respiratory tract evoked large variations in blood pressure accompanying the spasmodic respiratory efforts, probably by mechanical effects.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure
  • Bronchi / physiology
  • Cats
  • Cough
  • Diaphragm / physiology
  • Electromyography
  • Larynx / physiology
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Muscles / physiology
  • Nasal Mucosa / physiology
  • Nasopharynx / physiology
  • Nose / physiology
  • Paralysis
  • Pharynx / physiology
  • Phrenic Nerve / physiology
  • Reflex*
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena*
  • Sneezing
  • Trachea / physiology