Brainstem processing of cough sensory inputs in chronic cough hypersensitivity

Aung Aung Kywe Moe, Nabita Singh, Matthew Dimmock, Katherine Cox, Lorcan McGarvey, Kian Fan Chung, Alice E McGovern, Marcus McMahon, Amanda L Richards, Michael J Farrell, Stuart B Mazzone*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Chronic cough is a prevalent and difficult to treat condition often accompanied by cough hypersensitivity, characterised by cough triggered from exposure to low level sensory stimuli. The mechanisms underlying cough hypersensitivity may involve alterations in airway sensory nerve responsivity to tussive stimuli which would be accompanied by alterations in stimulus-induced brainstem activation, measurable with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

METHODS: We investigated brainstem responses during inhalation of capsaicin and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in 29 participants with chronic cough and 29 age- and sex-matched controls. Psychophysical testing was performed to evaluate individual sensitivities to inhaled stimuli and fMRI was used to compare neural activation in participants with cough and control participants while inhaling stimulus concentrations that evoked equivalent levels of urge-to-cough sensation.

FINDINGS: Participants with chronic cough were significantly more sensitive to inhaled capsaicin and ATP and showed a change in relationship between urge-to-cough perception and cough induction. When urge-to-cough levels were matched, participants with chronic cough displayed significantly less neural activation in medullary regions known to integrate airway sensory inputs. By contrast, neural activations did not differ significantly between the two groups in cortical brain regions known to encode cough sensations whereas activation in a midbrain region of participants with chronic cough was significantly increased compared to controls.

INTERPRETATION: Cough hypersensitivity in some patients may occur in brain circuits above the level of the medulla, perhaps involving midbrain regions that amplify ascending sensory signals or change the efficacy of central inhibitory control systems that ordinarily serve to filter sensory inputs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104976
Number of pages15
Early online date19 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

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Copyright © 2024 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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