Breathing after spinal cord injury
   
  
 
  
    The schematic diagram above is taken from a published manuscript ( Lane (2011) Resp. Physiol & Neurobiol. ). The figure illustrates the muscles that can be recruited into breathing activity. Those highlighted as ‘primary respiratory muscles’ are those that can active during normal breathing (at rest). This figure also illustrates the spinal distribution of motor neurons that innervate each muscle.    
  
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    The above photo is taken from a published manuscript ( Lane et al. (2008) Journal of Comparative Neurology ). Our research team uses experimental models of cervical spinal cord injury to assess how breathing is impaired, explore the potential for spontaneous neuroplasticity, and examine how injuries disrupt the anatomical pathways that control respiratory function.  Neuroanatomical  tracing and histological methods are used to examine the distribution of respiratory neurons, the connections between them, and how these are affected by SCI. The photo above is one such example of these tracing studies. This image is taken from a  histological  section through the cervical spinal cord. The neurons in green are spinal motoneurons that innervate the diaphragm on one side of the body (hemi-diaphragm). The red fibers surrounding these cells are axons from the respiratory control neurons in the brainstem. These neurons in the brainstem send patterned activity to spinal motoneurons, which stimulate contraction of the diaphragm contributing to inhalation. Our team also uses  electrophysiological  methods to record the activity (or ‘firing’) of these neurons, the information sent along their axons, and the contractions of the respiratory muscles. This allows a very detailed assessment of how the respiratory pathways function following SCI. The coordinated contraction of inspiratory and expiratory muscles results in the patterned activity of breathing (inhalation and expiration) – or  ventilation . Our research team uses  plethysmography  to assess ventilatory function following cervical SCI.    
  
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