Jack Feldman, PhD is the world leader in understanding how the brain controls breathing. In a landmark discovery, he identified a small region of the brain stem, which he named the preBötzinger Complex, as essential for generating breathing rhythm in fetal, neonatal and adult mammals. This breakthrough was made possible by Feldman’s development of unique experimental techniques and cell-type specific manipulations to pinpoint the region of the brain generating breathing rhythm. Feldman’s lab then identified a second breathing oscillator, which he named the retrotrapezoid nucleus. Together, his studies led to the now widely accepted two oscillator hypothesis, with the preBötzinger Complex driving inspiratory motor output and the retrotrapezoid nucleus driving expiratory motor output.
“Sighing appears to be regulated by the fewest number of neurons we have seen linked to a fundamental human behavior. One of the holy grails in neuroscience is figuring out how the brain controls behavior. Our finding gives us insights into mechanisms that may underlie much more complex behaviors."
- Dr. Jack Feldman
Subsequent studies using molecular approaches led to insights into how activity in the preBötzinger Complex modulates breathing behavior. This includes the discovery of the role of neuropeptides released from neurons in the retrotrapezoid nucleus and activating specific subsets of preBötzinger Complex neurons that regulate sighing, as well identifying a specific subset of preBötzinger Complex neurons that project to the higher brain centers where they promote breathing-related arousal. His current work focuses on understanding the mechanisms underlying the rhythm of breathing, how that rhythm gets transformed into the precisely regulated pattern of movement underlying ventilation, and most recently, how breathing affects other functions, such as emotion and cognitive function.