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This study investigates how metabolic rate, as required for thermoregulation, interacts with breathing control during development of the lamb. Fifteen lambs were studied sequentially at 4, 14, 30, 45 and 55 days of age. During each study they were maintained at ambient temperatures of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 degrees C for at least 1 h before measurements were made during N-REM sleep. Basal oxygen consumption fell from 16.1 +/- 0.72 (+/- SEM) to 10.1 +/- 0.47 ml/min per kg between 4 and 55 days of age, while breathing frequencies fell from 52.3 +/- 4.4 to 32.4 +/- 1.6 breaths/min over this period. Ventilation increased as oxygen consumption increased on cooling below thermoneutrality. In 4 days-old lambs this was achieved by an increase in breath amplitude, whilst in older lambs breathing frequency also rose. As breathing frequency fell there was a greater incidence of expiratory laryngeal braking at thermoneutrality associated with lengthened expiratory time. The ambient temperature at which these effects occurred, together with panting thresholds, progressively changed with age as the upper and lower critical temperatures fell and the thermoneutral range widened during development. It is concluded that metabolic rate provides a powerful stimulus to breathing in infant lambs. As the metabolic stimulus decreases with age, basal breathing frequency falls and expiratory laryngeal braking becomes important not only to protect lung volume, but also, through airway mechanosensory reflexes, in regulating breath time. This interaction is also particularly apparent as the metabolic and respiratory requirements alter to meet changes in ambient conditions.


Journal article


Journal of developmental physiology

Publication Date





27 - 36