Initiating the Breath: The Drive to Breathe, Muscle Pump

  • Jeremy Richards
  • Matthew J. Fogarty
  • Gary C. SieckEmail author
  • Richard M. SchwartzsteinEmail author
Part of the Respiratory Medicine book series (RM)


The initiation of a breath is the consequence of the interaction of a complex set of neural inputs to the respiratory centers of the brain and the mechanical properties of the ventilatory pump. Automatic and volitional elements must be considered, as well as behavioral effects resulting from symptoms and psychological factors. A range of pathological conditions may alter different pieces of the respiratory system resulting in changes in respiratory pattern and, in some cases, gas exchange. This chapter will outline the physiology of the key neuromechanical components of the respiratory system responsible for initiation of the breath and review the tests that may be used to assess the system.


Diaphragm muscle Diaphragm motor units Motor unit recruitment Ventilatory control 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Physiology and Biomedical EngineeringMayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  3. 3.School of Biomedical SciencesThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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