Airway Vagal Neuroplasticity Associated with Respiratory Viral Infections

Eric J. Zaccone, Bradley J. Undem

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Respiratory virus infections leads to coughing, sneezing, and increases in reflex parasympathetic bronchoconstriction and secretions. These responses to viral infection are exclusively or largely secondary to changes in the function of the nervous system. For many with underlying airway pathologies such as asthma and COPD, this neuroplasticity can lead to disease exacerbations and hospitalization. Relatively little is understood about the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie the changes in neuronal control of the respiratory tract during viral infection, but the evidence supports the idea that changes occur in the physiology of both the sensory and autonomic innervation. Virus infection can lead to acute increases in the activity of sensory nerves as well as to genetic changes causing alterations in sensory nerve phenotype. In addition, respiratory viral infections are associated with changes in the control of neurotransmitter release from cholinergic nerve endings terminating at the level of the airway smooth muscle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-29
Number of pages5
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Airway sensory nerves
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor
  • Cough
  • Nodose
  • Respiratory virus
  • TRPV1
  • Vagal afferent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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