Research Lab Bench

Respiratory Physiology Research at the Medical College of Wisconsin

respiratoryphysiologyRespiratory physiology research in the Department of Physiology at MCW is focused on understanding the neural mechanisms involved in the control of breathing at various stages of maturity and in response to various environmental and physical stressors.

Maturation of the ventilatory control system takes place following birth, although the factors that influence this maturation remain under investigation. Studies use different animal models to gain insight into the time-course of normal development of the ventilatory control system, as well as the effect of environmental and genetic influences on these changes during development. A newborn piglet model is currently being used to determine whether a critical window of development exists in the ventilatory control system that has been proposed as a part of a triple-risk model of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In addition, the interaction of plasticity and genetic influences is being studied using inbred strains of rats exposed to perinatal hyperoxia. In combination, these studies are aimed at understanding how the ventilatory control system matures under both normal and stressed conditions.

Other research is concerned with mechanisms regulating breathing in the adult. Breathing, respiratory muscle activity, heart rate and arterial blood pressure are continuously measured in all studies, which are completed in awake or asleep states. These studies provide insights into mechanisms of respiratory rhythm and pattern generation and intracranial chemoreception during normal conditions, during exercise, or when O 2 and CO 2 levels change in the brain. All these studies relate to disease conditions of central and obstructive sleep apnea, Sudden Infant Death syndrome, congenital central alveolar hypoventilation, and traumatic brainstem injury.

MCW Physiology Faculty


Melinda R. Dwinell, PhD

Professor and Eminent Scholar; Associate Director, Education, Linda T. and John A. Mellowes Center for Genomic Sciences and Precision Medicine

(414) 955-4498

Secondary and Affiliated Faculty

Elizabeth R. Jacobs, MD
Professor and Chief, Medicine, MCW