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In vitro study of central respiratory-like activity of the fetal rat

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A fetal rat brain stem-spinal cord in vitro preparation (15–20 days) which retains for several hours respiratory-like discharges on cervical and cranial ventral roots has been developed for analysing fetal central respiratory activity. Two different patterns of easily distinguishable rhythmic activity were recorded. The first, of spinal origin, appeared every 2–10 min as long bursts of potentials (3–30 s) on cervical, but not hypoglossal, roots. The second pattern corresponded to brief bursts (1 s) of potentials occurring on both cervical and hypoglossal roots at a frequency ranging from 3–4 cycles min-1. The second type of activity was likely to be respiratory since it originated from the medulla, and behaved similarly to the respiratory activity recorded in vitro from newborn rats. The fetal respiratory-like activity was never observed at day 15, appeared at day 16 in 30% of the preparations with fluctuating frequency and amplitude bursts, and stabilised at day 20 where it was usually present and resembled newborn rat respiratory activity: its frequency was stable but was reduced by withdrawal of CO2 and pH stimuli and modulated by a pontine noradrenergic influence. This fetal preparation offers many advantages for studying the ontogeny of the central respiratory activity because of the background knowledge available on the adult and newborn rat respiratory centers and the possibility of performing electrophysiological, morphological and pharmacological fetal studies directly at the central level without any feedback from the periphery.

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Pasquale, E.D., Monteau, R. & Hilaire, G. In vitro study of central respiratory-like activity of the fetal rat. Exp Brain Res 89, 459–464 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00228263

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Key words

  • Fetal breathing
  • Respiratory centers
  • Development
  • Ontogeny
  • Rat