Recordings were made from phrenic, abdominal and intercostal nerves following electrical stimulation of the vestibular nerve to test for the presence of vestibulo-respiratory connections in cats that were decerebrate, paralyzed, and artificially ventilated. Short stimulus trains (2 or 3 shocks) at intensities < or = 125 microA typically elicited responses bilaterally in all of the respiratory nerves; the onset latency of the evoked activity was < 15 ms from the effective shock. The mean peak-to-peak amplitudes of integrated vestibulo-respiratory responses were 15% of the average amplitude of spontaneous respiratory-related discharges in the case of the phrenic nerve and 100% in the case of the abdominal nerve. The vestibulo-respiratory reflexes, as well as vestibulo-sympathetic responses recorded from the splanchnic nerve, could be abolished by injections of the excitotoxin kainic acid confined primarily to the medial and adjacent inferior vestibular nuclei. The physiological role of vestibulo-respiratory connections is yet to be determined, but possible functions include adjustments of respiration during changes in posture, assistance in venous return to the heart during movements that might lead to orthostatic hypotension, and direct participation in the execution of specific movements and the maintenance of some postures.