Yackle, Kevin, M.D., Ph.D

Sandler Faculty Fellow, Principal Investigator

M.D., Stanford University
Ph.D., Stanford University
B.S. in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics, University of California - Los Angeles

How do we automatically breathe? How is breathing stopped by opioids? How is it coordinated with vocalization? How can I hold my breath? Does breathing change our emotion? 

Breathing is a seemingly simple, fundamental behavior that occurs about 12 times each minute. And, amazingly, this fundamental rhythm originates from a cluster of just several thousand neurons. Recently we have identified several molecularly distinct neural types, each ~100-200 neurons, that pace basal breathing, switch a normal breath into a sigh breath, and relay the breathing signal to a higher brainstem center that promotes arousal. Ultimately, we aim to identify the key neural type(s) that pace breathing. Additionally, we hope to characterize the cellular and molecular mechanisms for breathing disorders, such as opioid depression of breathing. 

Although breathing is such a fundamental behavior, we also have the amazing capacity to immediately stop it or coordinate it with other behaviors, like when we speak, cry, or swallow and even the type of breath we take can be regulated by our emotions, like a “sigh of relief”. This is in stark contrast to the body’s other key rhythm, our heartbeat. To understand how this occurs, we have focused our efforts towards understanding how innate vocalizations, like neonatal cries, are timed and coordinated with the breath. 

Iris Bachmutsky, PhD Candidate

Yoonjeung Chang, PhD, Science Specialist

Jeehaeh Do, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow

Eszter Kish, PhD Candidate     

Marisa Grams, PhD Candidate

Paul Wei, PhD Candidate