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respiratory center[′res·prə‚tȯr·ē ¦sen·tər]
several groups of nerve cells (neurons) located in various sections of the central nervous system, primarily in the reticular formation of the medulla oblongata. The continuous coordinated rhythmic activity of these neurons ensures the initiation of respiratory movements and their regulation in conformity with changes occurring in the body.
Impulses from the respiratory center enter the motor neurons of the anterior horns of the cervical and thoracic sections of the spinal cord, from which the excitation is transmitted to the respiratory musculature. The activity of the respiratory center is regulated humorally—that is, by the composition of the blood and interstitial fluid that bathe it. Its activity is also regulated by reflexes, in response to impulses entering from receptors in the respiratory, cardiovascular, motor, and other systems, as well as from the higher sections of the central nervous system. When entry of nerve impulses into the respiratory center is blocked, the respiratory center maintains its activity by so-called automatism of the respiratory center and is capable of ensuring respiratory movements.