Our purpose was to characterize activity of the intercostal nerve branch innervating the triangularis sterni muscle and the motoneuronal activities comprising this nerve discharge. In decerebrate, vagotomized, paralyzed, and ventilated cats, phasic triangularis sterni neural activity was evident in normocapnia. In most cats, activity did not commence until midexpiration. Activity then rose progressively to terminate at end expiration. Peak neural activities increased in parallel with phrenic activity in hypercapnia and fell in hypocapnia. The progressive increase in triangularis sterni neural activity within each respiratory cycle resulted from recruitment of motoneuronal activities throughout expiration. Once recruited, many motoneurons had a decrementing or constant discharge frequency. In hypercapnia, motoneuronal discharge frequencies increased, and additional activities were recruited. The number of active motoneurons and their discharge frequencies fell in hypocapnia. A similar pattern of motoneuronal activities and responses to stimuli was observed in cats with intact vagi. Factors are considered that may underlie the recruitment pattern of triangularis sterni motoneuronal activities and the inhibition of these in early expiration.
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