Preventing pulmonary inflation during inspiration results in greater augmentations in activity of the hypoglossal nerve than in the phrenic nerve. Our purpose was to characterize the hypoglossal motoneuronal activities which underlie these augmentations. Activities of the phrenic and hypoglossal nerves and single hypoglossal fibers were recorded in decerebrate and paralyzed cats. Ventilation was by a servo-respirator which produced changes in lung volume in parallel with phrenic activity. The number of motoneurons that discharged during cycles in which the lungs were inflated increased with elevations of end-tidal fractional concentrations of CO2 (FETCO2) from 0.05 to 0.06 and 0.09. At each FETCO2, the discharge frequency increased when pulmonary inflation was withheld. In addition, withholding inflation resulted in the recruitment of other motoneuronal activities. Most motoneurons discharged during the period of the phrenic burst (inspiratory neurons). Lesser numbers of inspiratory-expiratory, expiratory-inspiratory, and tonic motoneuronal activities were also recorded. Results are considered in the context of the inhibition of respiratory motoneuronal activity by vagal pulmonary afferent fibers. The possible role of such inhibition, and release from this inhibition, in maintenance of patency of the upper airways is discussed.
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