Widespread depolarization during expiration: A source of respiratory drive?

Medical Hypotheses 84 (1):31-37 (2014)
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Respiration influences various pacemakers and rhythms of the body during inspiration and expiration but the underlying mechanisms are relatively unknown. Understanding this phenomenon is important, as breathing disorders, breath holding, and hyperventilation can lead to significant medical conditions. We discuss the physiological modulation of heart rhythm, blood pressure, sympathetic nerve activity, EEG, and other changes observed during inspiration and expiration. We also correlate the intracellular mitochondrial respiratory metabolic processes with real-time breathing and correlate membrane potential changes with inspiration and expiration. We propose that widespread minor hyperpolarization occurs during inspiration and widespread minor depolarization occurs during expiration. This depolarization is likely a source of respiratory drive. Further knowledge of intracellular and extracellular ionic changes associated with respiration will enhance our understanding of respiration and its role as a modulator of cellular membrane potential. This could expand treatment options for a wide range of health conditions, such as breathing disorders, stress-related disorders, and further our understanding of the Hering–Breuer reflex and respiratory sinus arrhythmia.
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