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One hundred years ago in this journal, Krogh and Lindhard published a seminal paper highlighting the importance of the brain in the control of breathing during exercise. This symposium report reviews the historical developments that have taken place since 1913, and attempts to place the detailed neurocircuitry thought to underpin exercise hyperpnoea into context by focusing on key structures that might form the command network. With the advent of enhanced neuroimaging and functional neurosurgical techniques, a unique window of opportunity has recently arisen to target potential circuits in humans. Animal studies have identified a priori sites of interest in mid-brain structures, in particular the subthalamic locomotor region (subthalamic nucleus, STN) and the periaqueductal grey (PAG), which have now been recorded from in humans during exercise. When all data are viewed in an integrative manner, the PAG, in particular the lateral PAG, and aspects of the dorsal lateral PAG, appear to be key communicating circuitry for 'central command'. Moreover, the PAG also fulfils many requirements of a command centre. It has functional connectivity to higher centres (dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex) and the basal ganglia (in particular, the STN), and receives a sensory input from contracting muscle, but, importantly, it sends efferent information to brainstem nuclei involved in cardiorespiratory control.

Original publication




Journal article


J Physiol

Publication Date





433 - 444


Brain, Brain Waves, Exercise, Humans, Lung, Pulmonary Ventilation