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.


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.

Shumway, K. R., Porfirio, D. J., & Bailey, E. F. (2015). Phonation-related rate coding and recruitment in the genioglossus muscle. Experimental brain research, 233(7), 2133-40.

Motor unit recruitment was assessed in two muscles with similar muscle fiber-type compositions and that participate in skilled movements: the tongue muscle, genioglossus (GG), and the hand muscle, first dorsal interosseous (FDI). Our primary objectives were to determine in the framework of a voluntary movement whether muscle force is regulated in tongue as it is in limb, i.e., via processes of rate coding and recruitment. Recruitment in the two muscles was assessed within each subject in the context of ramp force (FDI) and in the tongue (GG) during vowel production and specifically, in the context of ramp increases in loudness, and subsequently expressed relative to the maximal. The principle findings of the study are that the general rules of recruitment and rate coding hold true for both GG and FDI, and second, that average firing rates, firing rates at recruitment and peak firing rates in GG are significantly higher than for FDI (P 

Bailey, E. F. (2011). Activities of human genioglossus motor units. Respiratory physiology & neurobiology, 179(1), 14-22.

Upper airway muscles play an important role in regulating airway lumen and in increasing the ability of the pharynx to remain patent in the face of subatmospheric intraluminal pressures produced during inspiration. Due to the considerable technical challenges associated with recording from muscles of the upper airway, much of the experimental work conducted in human subjects has centered on recording respiratory-related activities of the extrinsic tongue protudor muscle, the genioglossus (GG). The GG is one of eight muscles that invest the human tongue (Abd-El-Malek, 1939). All eight muscles are innervated by the hypoglossal nerve (cranial nerve XII) the cell bodies of which are located in the hypoglossal motor nucleus (HMN) of the caudal medulla. Much of the earlier work on the respiratory-related activity of XII motoneurons was based on recordings obtained from single motor axons dissected from the whole XII nerve or from whole muscle GG EMG recordings. Detailed information regarding respiratory-related GG motor unit activities was lacking until as recently as 2006. This paper examines key findings that have emerged from the last decade of work conducted in human subjects. Wherever appropriate, these results are compared with results obtained from in vitro and in vivo studies conducted in non-human mammals. The review is written with the objective of facilitating some discussion and some new thoughts regarding future research directions. The material is framed around four topics: (a) motor unit type, (b) rate coding and recruitment, (c) motor unit activity patterns, and (d) a compartment based view of pharyngeal airway control.