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Breathing results from sequential recruitment of muscles in the expiratory, inspiratory, and postinspiratory (post-I) phases of the respiratory cycle. Here we investigate whether neurons in the medullary intermediate reticular nucleus (IRt) are components of a central pattern generator (CPG) that generates post-I activity in laryngeal adductors and vasomotor sympathetic nerves and interacts with other members of the central respiratory network to terminate inspiration. We first identified the region of the (male) rat IRt that contains the highest density of lightly cholinergic neurons, many of which are glutamatergic, which aligns well with the putative postinspiratory complex in the mouse (Anderson et al., 2016). Acute bilateral inhibition of this region reduced the amplitudes of post-I vagal and sympathetic nerve activities. However, although associated with reduced expiratory duration and increased respiratory frequency, IRt inhibition did not affect inspiratory duration or abolish the recruitment of post-I activity during acute hypoxemia as predicted. Rather than representing an independent CPG for post-I activity, we hypothesized that IRt neurons may instead function as a relay that distributes post-I activity generated elsewhere, and wondered whether they could be a site of integration for para-respiratory CPGs that drive the same outputs. Consistent with this idea, IRt inhibition blocked rhythmic motor and autonomic components of fictive swallow but not swallow-related apnea. Our data support a role for IRt neurons in the transmission of post-I and swallowing activity to motor and sympathetic outputs, but suggest that other mechanisms also contribute to the generation of post-I activity.
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- respiratory-sympathetic coupling