Accurate monitoring of respiration is often needed for neurophysiological studies, as either a dependent experimental variable or an indicator of physiological state. Current options for respiratory monitoring of animals held in a stereotaxic frame include EMG recordings, pneumotachograph measurements, inductance-plethysmography, whole-body plethysmography (WBP), and visual monitoring. While powerful, many of these methods prevent access to the animal's body, interfere with experimental manipulations, or require deep anesthesia and additional surgery. For experiments where these issues may be problematic, we developed a non-invasive method of recording respiratory parameters specifically for use with animals held in a stereotaxic frame. This system, ventilation pressure transduction (VPT), measures variations in pressure at the animal's nostril from inward and outward airflow during breathing. These pressure changes are detected by a sensitive pressure transducer, then filtered and amplified. The output is an analog signal representing each breath. VPT was validated against WBP using 10% carbon dioxide and systemic morphine (4. mg/kg) challenges in lightly anesthetized animals. VPT accurately represented breathing rate and tidal volume changes under both baseline and challenge conditions. This novel technique can therefore be used to measure respiratory rate and relative tidal volume when stereotaxic procedures are needed for neuronal manipulations and recording.
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