To clarify the difference between the firing patterns of the dorsal respiratory group (DRG) and ventral respiratory group (VRG) neurons during spontaneous augmented breaths, extracellular single unit recording of 139 respiratory-related neurons (inspiratory: 98/139, expiratory: 41/139) was performed in pentobarbital anesthetized rats. Both the I and E neurons were further classified into six groups: (1) I-augmenting, (2) I-decrementing, (3) I-other cells, (4) E-augmenting, (5) E-decrementing and (6) E-other cells. During the augmented breaths, most inspiratory neurons in the DRG (25/26) and VRG (67/72) show an increase in their discharge frequency irrespective of the cell type, but the discharges after an augmented breath were inhibited. Changes in these inspiratory neurons coincided with those of diaphragm electromyogram activity. With regard to relative changes in the mean firing rate during the inspiratory phase II of augmented breaths, there was a significant difference between the I-augmenting DRG and VRG neurons (353.5 +/- 56.9% vs. 237.5 +/- 17.1%, P < 0.01), but not in the I-decrementing and I-other neurons. On the other hand, the activities of the expiratory DRG (9/9) and VRG (27/32) neurons decreased during the augmented breath. A significant difference in the relative mean firing rate during the expiratory phase of augmented breaths was observed between the E-decrementing DRG and VRG neurons (27.3 +/- 5.2% vs. 58.0 +/- 6.3%, P < 0.05), but not between the E-augmenting and E-other neurons. These results suggested that during spontaneous augmented breaths the firing patterns of the DRG neurons were not qualitatively different from those of the VRG neurons.