This image shows neurons in the newly identified PiCo region of the brain. The researchers used staining techniques to identify the chemical identity of the neurons, which helps give insight into their function.

This image shows neurons in the newly identified PiCo region of the brain. The researchers used staining techniques to identify the chemical identity of the neurons, which helps give insight into their function.

Neuroscientists at Seattle Children’s Research Institute have discovered an area of the brain that plays a key role in breathing. In a study published in the journal Nature the researchers describe the newly identified area of the brain, which they found plays a key role in exhalation.

“In healthy people, breathing is something we do whether or not we consciously think about it,” said Dr. Nino Ramirez, Director of the Center for Integrative Brain Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. “This paper describes a part of the brain that is active during passive exhalation, which is important for swallowing, speaking, coughing, and other behaviors that occur after an inhalation.”

The researchers called this region of the brain the postinspiratory complex, or PiCo. Further study and understanding of how this region of the brain works could lead to the development of new treatments for certain neurodegenerative diseases that involve breathing abnormalities.

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