The respiratory and cardiovascular systems are highly intertwined, both anatomically
and physiologically. Respiratory and cardiovascular neurons are often co-localized
in the same brainstem regions, and this is particularly evident in the ventral medulla
which contains presympathetic neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla, premotor
parasympathetic cardioinhibitory neurons in the nucleus ambiguus, and the ventral
respiratory group, which includes the pre-Botzinger complex. Anatomical studies of
respiratory and cardiovascular neurons have demonstrated that many of these neurons
have projections and axon collateral processes which extend into their neighboring
cardiorespiratory regions providing an anatomical substrate for cardiorespiratory
interactions. As other reports in this Special Issue of Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology
focus on interactions between the respiratory network and baroreceptors, neurons in
the nucleus tractus solitarius, presympathetic neurons and sympathetic activity, this
report will focus on the respiratory modulation of parasympathetic activity and the
neurons that generate parasympathetic activity to the heart, cardiac vagal neurons.
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