Human brain networks processing respiratory sensations

Project Details

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.  They do so by providing inputs to complex brain networks responsible for generating respiratory sensations and resultant behaviours. Changes in the excitability of these brain networks may be important for the development of coughing, dyspnoea and hyperreactivity characteristic of many lung diseases.

In this project we are using functional brain imaging approaches (fMRI) in healthy humans and those with chronic cough to define brain processes in humans that are important for encoding respiratory sensations and to determine regional plasticity that may be important drivers of sensory dysfunction in disease.


Dr Alice McGovern, NHMRC Research Fellow

Nicole Kerr, Laboratory Manager

Jennifer Keller, PhD student

Alexandria Driessen, PhD student


Associate Professor Michael Farrell

Professor Fan Chung, Imperial College London

Dr Lorcan McGarvey, Queens College Belfast


NHMRC (2015-18): Dissecting the central organisation of cough neural networks.

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.

Research Group

Mazzone laboratory: Respiratory Sensory Neuroscience

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Cardio-Respiratory, Biomedical Neuroscience, Molecular Mechanisms of Disease

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Anatomy and Physiology

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