E.Fiona Bailey
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Professor, Evelyn F Mcknight Brain Institute
Professor, Physiology
Professor, Speech/Language and Hearing
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(520) 626-8299
Research Interest
My research focus is the neural control of breathing in human and nonhuman mammals. My earlier work assessed the role of pulmonary stretch receptors and central chemoreceptors in the genesis and relief of dyspnea or shortness of breath in healthy adults. These studies led to studies in the mammalian (rodent) airway that explored the modulation of upper airway muscles activities by chemical and pulmonary afferent feedback and the potential for selective electrical stimulation of the cranial nerve XII to alter airway geometry and volume (NIH/NIDCD RO3). Beginning in 2005, with the support of an NIH/NIDCD K23 I began work in neural control of upper airway muscles using tungsten microelectrodes to record from single motor units in adult human subjects. This work led in turn, to studies of regional (or segmental) muscle and motor unit activities in human subjects under volitional, state-dependent (i.e., wake/sleep) and chemoreceptor drives, in health and disease (NIH/NIDCD RO1). On the basis of the experimental work in muscle and motor units I have pursued additional lines of enquiry focused on clinical respiratory dysfunction in two specific populations a) infants at risk for SIDS and b) adults diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Both lines of enquiry are highly innovative and have diagnostic and clinical applications. One recent line of enquiry explores the potential for a non-pharmacologic intervention daily to lower blood pressure and to improve sleep in patients diagnosed with mild-moderate obstructive sleep apnea. This training protocol shows promise as a cheap, effective and safe means of lowering blood pressure and improving autonomic-cardiovascular dysfunction in patients who are unwilling or unable to use the standard CPAP therapy.


John, J., Bailey, E. F., & Fregosi, R. F. (2005). Respiratory-related discharge of genioglossus muscle motor units. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, 172(10), 1331-7.

Little is known about the respiratory-related discharge properties of motor units driving any of the eight muscles that control the movement, shape, and stiffness of the mammalian tongue.

Pittman, L. J., & Bailey, E. F. (2009). Genioglossus and intrinsic electromyographic activities in impeded and unimpeded protrusion tasks. Journal of neurophysiology, 101(1), 276-82.

Eight muscles invest the human tongue: four extrinsic muscles have external origins and insert into the tongue body and four intrinsic muscles originate and terminate within the tongue. Previously, we noted minimal activation of the genioglossus tongue muscle during impeded protrusion tasks (i.e., having subjects push the tongue against a force transducer), suggesting that other muscles play a role in the production of tongue force. Accordingly, we sought to characterize genioglossus tongue muscle activities during impeded and unimpeded protrusion tasks (i.e., having subjects slowly and smoothly move the tongue out of their mouth). Electromyographic (EMG) and single motor-unit potentials of the extrinsic genioglossus muscle were recorded with tungsten microelectrodes and EMG activities of intrinsic tongue muscles were recorded with hook-wire electrodes inserted into the anterior tongue body. Tongue position was detected by an isotonic transducer coupled to the tongue tip. Protrusive force was detected by a force transducer attached to a rigid bar. Genioglossus and intrinsic tongue muscles were simultaneously active in both impeded and unimpeded protrusion tasks. Genioglossus whole muscle EMG and single motor-unit activities changed faithfully as a function of tongue position, with increased discharge associated with protrusion and decreased discharge associated with retraction back to the rest position. In contrast, during the impeded protrusion task drive the genioglossus muscle remained constant as protrusion force increased. Conversely, intrinsic tongue muscle activities appropriately followed changes in both tongue position and force. Importantly, we observed significantly higher levels of intrinsic muscle activity in the impeded protrusion task. These observations suggest that protrusion of the human tongue requires activation of the genioglossus and intrinsic protrudor muscles, with the former more important for establishing anterior-posterior tongue location and the latter playing a greater role in the generation of protrusive force. A biomechanical model of these actions is provided and discussed.

Bailey, E. F., Jones, C. L., Reeder, J. C., Fuller, D. D., & Fregosi, R. F. (2001). Effect of pulmonary stretch receptor feedback and CO(2) on upper airway and respiratory pump muscle activity in the rat. The Journal of physiology, 532(Pt 2), 525-34.

1. Our purpose was to examine the effects of chemoreceptor stimulation and lung inflation on neural drive to tongue protrudor and retractor muscles in the rat. 2. Inspiratory flow, tidal volume, transpulmonary pressure, compliance and electromyographic (EMG) activity of genioglossus (GG), hyoglossus (HG) and inspiratory intercostal (IIC) muscles were studied in 11 anaesthetized, tracheotomized and spontaneously breathing rats. Mean EMG activity during inspiration was compared with mean EMG activity during an occluded inspiration, at each of five levels of inspired CO(2) (0, 3, 6, 9 and 12 %). 3. Lung inflation suppressed EMG activity in all muscles, with the effect on both tongue muscles exceeding that of the intercostal muscles. Static elevations of end-expiratory lung volume evoked by 2 cmH(2)O positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) had no effect on tongue muscle activity. 4. Despite increasing inspiratory flow, tidal volume and transpulmonary pressure, the inhibition of tongue muscle activity by lung inflation diminished as arterial PCO2 (P(a),CO(2)) increased. 5. The onset of tongue muscle activity relative to the onset of IIC muscle activity advanced with increases in P(a),CO(2) but was unaffected by lung inflation. This suggests that hypoglossal and external intercostal motoneuron pools are controlled by different circuits or have different sensitivities to CO(2), lung inflation and/or anaesthetic agents. 6. We conclude that hypoglossal motoneuronal activity is more strongly influenced by chemoreceptor-mediated facilitation than by lung volume-mediated inhibition. Hypoglossal motoneurons driving tongue protrudor and retractor muscles respond identically to these stimuli.

Barreda, S., Kidder, I. J., Mudery, J. A., & Bailey, E. F. (2015). Developmental nicotine exposure adversely effects respiratory patterning in the barbiturate anesthetized neonatal rat. Respiratory physiology & neurobiology, 208, 45-50.

Neonates at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) are hospitalized for cardiorespiratory monitoring however, monitoring is costly and generates large quantities of averaged data that serve as poor predictors of infant risk. In this study we used a traditional autocorrelation function (ACF) testing its suitability as a tool to detect subtle alterations in respiratory patterning in vivo. We applied the ACF to chest wall motion tracings obtained from rat pups in the period corresponding to the mid-to-end of the third trimester of human pregnancy. Pups were drawn from two groups: nicotine-exposed and saline-exposed at each age (i.e., P7, P8, P9, and P10). Respiratory-related motions of the chest wall were recorded in room air and in response to an arousal stimulus (FIO2 14%). The autocorrelation function was used to determine measures of breathing rate and respiratory patterning. Unlike alternative tools such as Poincare plots that depict an averaged difference in a measure breath to breath, the ACF when applied to a digitized chest wall trace yields an instantaneous sample of data points that can be used to compare (data) points at the same time in the next breath or in any subsequent number of breaths. The moment-to-moment evaluation of chest wall motion detected subtle differences in respiratory pattern in rat pups exposed to nicotine in utero and aged matched saline-exposed peers. The ACF can be applied online as well as to existing data sets and requires comparatively short sampling windows (∼2 min). As shown here, the ACF could be used to identify factors that precipitate or minimize instability and thus, offers a quantitative measure of risk in vulnerable populations.

Laine, C. M., & Bailey, E. F. (2011). Common synaptic input to the human hypoglossal motor nucleus. Journal of neurophysiology, 105(1), 380-7.

The tongue plays a key role in various volitional and automatic functions such as swallowing, maintenance of airway patency, and speech. Precisely how hypoglossal motor neurons, which control the tongue, receive and process their often concurrent input drives is a subject of ongoing research. We investigated common synaptic input to the hypoglossal motor nucleus by measuring the coordination of spike timing, firing rate, and oscillatory activity across motor units recorded from unilateral (i.e., within a belly) or bilateral (i.e., across both bellies) locations within the genioglossus (GG), the primary protruder muscle of the tongue. Simultaneously recorded pairs of motor units were obtained from 14 healthy adult volunteers using tungsten microelectrodes inserted percutaneously into the GG while the subjects were engaged in volitional tongue protrusion or rest breathing. Bilateral motor unit pairs showed concurrent low frequency alterations in firing rate (common drive) with no significant difference between tasks. Unilateral motor unit pairs showed significantly stronger common drive in the protrusion task compared with rest breathing, as well as higher indices of synchronous spiking (short-term synchrony). Common oscillatory input was assessed using coherence analysis and was observed in all conditions for frequencies up to ∼ 5 Hz. Coherence at frequencies up to ∼ 10 Hz was strongest in motor unit pairs recorded from the same GG belly in tongue protrusion. Taken together, our results suggest that cortical drive increases motor unit coordination within but not across GG bellies, while input drive during rest breathing is distributed uniformly to both bellies of the muscle.