The pre-Bötzinger Complex (PBC) is the respiratory center in the brainstem. It is the sufficient kernel to create rhythmic inspiratory output and continues to be rhythmic even in isolation from other nuclei. Previous research has established the role of different types of neurons in this process, however recent findings implicate astrocytes in this process. Astrocytes were largely considered to be passive support cells for the last decades, but have since been acknowledged as more active participants in computations of the brain.
Here, we compare the calcium dynamics of astrocytes with the activity of neurons in the PBC. Understanding how the inspiratory rhythm is modulated by astrocytes has the potential to minimize respiratory distress in neonates.