Neonatal chest wall afferents and regulation of respiration.J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exerc Physiol 1977; 42(3):362-7JA
We have studied two groups of eight preterm infants, relating chest wall afferent information to respiratory timing. Rib cage and abdominal motion were monitored by magnetometers and flow and tidal volume via a face mask. In the first group, studies were done in REM sleep when spontaneously occurring distortion of the rib cage occurred and a significant linear relationship between the rate of distortion of the chest wall and shortening of the inspiratory time (Ti) was found in all infants. Reduction in this distortion by the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or continuous negative pressure at the body surface (CNeg) was associated with a significant (P less than 0.01) lengthening of Ti. Absence of changes in Ti when pressure was applied in quiet sleep suggested that lung volume or chemical changes were not involved. In the second group of infants we artificially generated the afferent inflow by using vibratory stimuli applied in one intercostal interspace and produced a significant (P less than 0.05) shortening in Ti. We suggest that the distortion of the rib cage in REM sleep generates afferent information from intercostal muscle spindles that is related to the rate of distortion and this, via a supraspinal reflex, inhibits phrenic motoneuron discharge. It may then be of importance in the etiology of apneic episodes in these infants. Applied pressure may be of benefit because it reduces an inhibitory afferent inflow.