The effect of electrical stimulation of the amygdaloid central nucleus (ACE) on respiration was studied in unanesthetized, unrestrained cats during sleep-waking states. Single 0.5-ms 500-microA constant-current pulses delivered to the ACE at various points on the respiratory cycle, produced a transient inspiratory effort which summated with ongoing inspiratory activity and reduced inspiratory time. Stimulus pulses delivered during the expiratory phase resulted in an earlier shift to inspiration. Repetitive single pulse stimuli delivered to the ACE at a rate slightly faster than the spontaneous respiratory cycle during the alert state, were capable of 'entraining' respiration at the stimulus frequency. This entrainment disappeared in quiet sleep. Atropine, however, which produced synchronous high voltage slow waves and 12-14-Hz EEG spindle activity in the alert cat, did not impair this entrainment. Short (300-500 ms) 100-Hz trains of 0.5-ms pulses to the ACE produced rapid onset, sustained inspiration and a rise in blood pressure in the alert animal. During quiet sleep the response was attenuated but qualitatively similar, and also aroused the animal. Single pulse stimuli, however, were not associated with cardiovascular changes or generalized arousal. These results suggest that the ACE contributes to excitation of the inspiratory cycle, possibly through the large projection of this nucleus to the parabrachial pons.