BReathing REsearch And THErapeutics (BREATHE) is focused on the respiratory neuromuscular system, emphasizing the discovery of new knowledge and its translation to severe clinical disorders that compromise breathing capacity, stability and/or airway defense.At its core, breathing is a neuromuscular act, initiated in the brain and translated through somatic motor neurons to engage the respiratory muscles that move the lung/chest wall system. Airway defense, a distinct yet related neuromuscular act, involves coordination of complex automatic behaviors (breathing and swallowing) or expulsive maneuvers to clear airways (cough). Breathing and airway defense are inextricably linked in function and are regulated by a complex, integrated neural control system.

Diminished breathing capacity, unstable breathing and/or aspiration pneumonia from inadequate airway defense are hallmarks of virtually all neuromuscular disorders, and respiratory failure is the most common cause of death in most clinical disorders that compromise movement. Despite its importance, relatively little attention has been paid to the neuromuscular system responsible for breathing and airway defense. Indeed, we know of no other training program with a similar focus on breathing and airway defense in traumatic, ischemic, genetic and neurodegenerative clinical disorders.

The University of Florida Center for Respiratory Research and Rehabilitation is the administrative home of the BREATHE Training Program, and provides a stimulating and rigorous intellectual environment to enable “cross-training.” We train individuals with diverse academic backgrounds, including neuroscience, engineering and clinical training (physicians, physical therapists, speech pathologists and veterinarians). A hallmark of our program is “cross-training,” where clinician scientists establish strong basic research foundations and basic scientists are exposed to meaningful clinical experiences that, although limited, change their appreciation for the complexities of translational research.