A dynamic link between respiration and arousal

Daniel S. Kluger, Joachim Gross, Christian Keitel

Research output: Working paper/PreprintPreprint

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Viewing brain function through the lense of other physiological processes has critically added to our understanding of human cognition. Further advances though may need a closer look at the interactions between these physiological processes themselves. Here we characterise the interplay of the highly periodic, and metabolically vital respiratory process and fluctuations in arousal neuromodulation, a process classically seen as non-periodic. In data of three experiments (N = 56 / 27 / 25) we tested for covariations in tidal volume (respiration) and pupil size (arousal). After substantiating a robust coupling in the largest dataset, we further show that coupling strength decreases during task performance compared with rest, and that it mirrors a decreased respiratory rate when participants take deeper breaths. Taken together, these findings suggest a stronger link between respiratory and arousal processes than previously thought. Moreover, these links imply a stronger coupling during periods of rest, and the effect of respiratory rate on the coupling suggests a driving role. As a consequence, studying the role of neuromodulatory arousal on cortical function may also need to consider respiratory influences.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2023


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