A mechanism for vocal-respiratory coupling in the mammalian parabrachial nucleus. Academic Article uri icon


  • Mammalian vocalizations require the precise coordination of separate laryngeal and respiratory motor pathways. Precisely how and where in the brain vocal motor patterns interact with respiratory rhythm control is unknown. The parabrachial nucleus (PB) is known to mediate key respiratory reflexes and is also considered a principle component of the mammalian vocal motor pathway, making it a likely site for vocal-respiratory interactions, yet a specific role for the PB in vocalizing has yet to be demonstrated. To investigate the role of the PB in vocal-respiratory coordination, we pharmacologically manipulated synaptic activity in the PB while spontaneously vocalizing horseshoe bats were provoked to emit either short, single syllable or long, multisyllabic vocal motor patterns. Iontophoresis of the GABAA agonist muscimol (MUS) into the lateral PB extended expiratory durations surrounding all vocalizations and increased mean call durations. Alternatively, application of the GABAA antagonist bicuculline methiodide (BIC) shortened expirations and call durations. In addition, BIC eliminated the occurrence of multisyllabic vocalizations. BIC caused a mild increase in quiet breathing rates, whereas MUS tended to slow quiet breathing. The results indicate that GABAA receptor-mediated inhibition in the lateral PB modulates the time course of respiratory phase switching during vocalizing, and is needed for proper coordination of calling and breathing in mammals. We hypothesize that vocal-respiratory rhythm entrainment is achieved at least in part via mechanisms similar to other forms of locomotor-respiratory coupling, namely somatosensory feedback influences on respiratory phase-switching in the lateral PB.

published proceedings

  • J Neurosci

author list (cited authors)

  • Smotherman, M., Kobayasi, K., Ma, J., Zhang, S., & Metzner, W.

citation count

  • 60

complete list of authors

  • Smotherman, Michael||Kobayasi, Kohta||Ma, Jie||Zhang, Shuyi||Metzner, Walter

publication date

  • May 2006