Spinal cord injury and diaphragm neuromotor control

Matthew J. Fogarty, Gary C. Sieck

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Introduction: Neuromotor control of diaphragm muscle and the recovery of diaphragm activity following spinal cord injury have been narrowly focused on ventilation. By contrast, the understanding of neuromotor control for non-ventilatory expulsive/straining maneuvers (including coughing, defecation, and parturition) is relatively impoverished. This variety of behaviors are achieved via the recruitment of the diverse array of motor units that comprise the diaphragm muscle. Areas covered: The neuromotor control of ventilatory and non-ventilatory behaviors in health and in the context of spinal cord injury is explored. Particular attention is played to the neuroplasticity of phrenic motor neurons in various models of cervical spinal cord injury. Expert opinion: There is a remarkable paucity in our understanding of neuromotor control of maneuvers in spinal cord injury patients. Dysfunction of these expulsive/straining maneuvers reduces patient quality of life and contributes to severe morbidity and mortality. As spinal cord injury patient life expectancies continue to climb steadily, a nexus of spinal cord injury and age-associated comorbidities are likely to occur. While current research remains concerned only with the minutiae of ventilation, the major functional deficits of this clinical cohort will persist intractably. We posit some future research directions to avoid this scenario.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-464
Number of pages12
JournalExpert Review of Respiratory Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 3 2020


  • Phrenic motor neurons
  • contusion
  • hemisection
  • motor unit
  • neural circuit
  • recruitment
  • skeletal muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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