What is it about?

Internal bodily-signals, such as cardio-respiratory ones, are constantly transmitted between the body and the brain. While this body-brain communication is essential to the organism's survival, its precise mechanisms are still largely unknown. In this work we uncovered a possible mechanism of body-brain communication by locating, for the first time, single neurons in two deep structures of the human brain that encode vital physiological signals from the heart and the lungs.

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Why is it important?

Physiological signals represent a continuous stream of vital information flowing between body and brain (e.g. for the heart one individual will have on average 100.000 beats per day). The neurons we identified here make sure that this constant stream of vital information, from the heart and the lungs, is monitored, maintained, and adjusted if change is needed. Body-brain communication is extremely important as it ensures self-regulation of the organism, and can also affect mental health, cognition, and emotional processes.


Working on this project was incredibly fascinating as we had the rare opportunity of observing the activity of deep neurons in the human brain recorded during brain surgery. This was only possible thanks to the collaboration with functional neurosurgeons and patients. This study lays the foundation for several future developments that I am excited to see happening.

Emanuela De Falco
Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Single neurons in the thalamus and subthalamic nucleus process cardiac and respiratory signals in humans, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 2024, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2316365121.
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