Mazzone laboratory: Respiratory Sensory Neuroscience

Research Overview

The Respiratory Sensory Neuroscience Laboratory is interested in:

  1. The vagal sensory neuron populations that innervate the airways and lungs, and
  2. The brain circuits that process respiratory sensory information

In the respiratory system, sensory neurons are critical for the ongoing physiological control of breathing as well as protecting against potentially damaging stimuli that could adversely affect ventilation. Their disordered activity contributes the coughing, dyspnoea and hyperreactivity characteristic of many lung diseases. Although respiratory sensory neurons are known to be functionally heterogeneous, very little is known about the molecular characteristics that define distinct populations. Their connectivity within the central neural circuits that modulate sensation and behaviours are also poorly described.

The Mazzone laboratory is internationally recognised for their work in the field of cough and respiratory sensation.  We have led the field in describing neural processes that regulate sensory-evoked reflexes and behaviours (summarised in; Mazzone and Undem, Physiological Reviews, 2016).  We recently discovered that respiratory sensory neurons originating within two embryologically distinct cranial ganglia of the vagus nerves (known as the jugular and nodose vagal ganglia) display very different neural connections within the central nervous system. We are now actively pursuing the functional significance of this discovery using transcriptomic profiling to better describe the molecular characteristics of respiratory sensory neurons, viral tract tracing and modern molecular physiology to understand the organisation of function circuits in the brain and human functional brain imaging to assess plasticity in the central nervous system in patients with disease.


Dr Alice McGovern, NHMRC Research Fellow

Nicole Kerr, Laboratory Manager

Jennifer Keller, PhD student

Alexandria Driessen, PhD student


Professor Christine Wells
Professor Janet Keast
Professor Andrew Allen
Dr Jason Ivanusic
Professor Bradley Undem, Johns Hopkins University
Professor Fan Chung, Imperial College London
Dr Lorcan McGarvey Queens College Belfast
Associate Professor Michael Farrell Monash University

Research Publications

  • Mazzone SB, Undem BJ. Vagal Afferent Innervation of the Airways in Health and Disease. Physiol Rev 2016 Jul; 96(3): 975 1024.
  • Ando A, Smallwood D, McMahon M, Irving L, Mazzone SB, Farrell MJ. Neural correlates of cough hypersensitivity in humans: evidence for central sensitisation and dysfunctional inhibitory control. Thorax 2016 Apr; 71(4): 323-9.
  • McGovern AE, Driessen AK, Simmons DG, Powell J, Davis-Poynter N, Farrell MJ, Mazzone SB. Distinct brainstem and forebrain circuits receiving tracheal sensory neuron inputs revealed using a novel conditional anterograde transsynaptic viral tracing system. J Neurosci 2015 May 6; 35(18): 7041-55.

See ORCiD for a listing of Stuart's publications.