Silvia Pagliardini (PhD, University of Alberta)

Assistant Professor

Department of Physiology
3-020F Katz Group Centre
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta
Canada T6G 2E1

Tel:  780 492-9054
Fax: 780 492-1308


Research Description

State dependent modulation of breathing:

Research conducted in my laboratory aims to gain an understanding of the neuronal mechanisms that control breathing and affect its function during sleep when the majority of respiratory disorders of central origin occur. We are currently interested in delineating the function of a region in the brainstem that is crucial for the generation of expiratory activity, the paraFacial Respiratory Group. Its contribution to ventilation in health and disease is yet not clear. With state of the art technologies we aim to provide a better understanding of the function of this structure and the networks that influence its activity.

Breathing is an automatic behaviour that is essential for mammalian life and requires a coordinated contraction of respiratory muscles that must occur continuously, from birth until the last breath. In humans and other mammals the part of the brain that controls respiratory activity is the brainstem, where specialized groups of neurons generate a continuous rhythm that ultimately drives respiratory muscles. Respiratory activity is also highly influenced by brain state activity, with abnormalities and irregularities occurring most frequently during sleep, when voluntary respiratory control is lacking and chemosensitive and propriosensory feedback systems are often insufficient to maintain a rhythmic respiratory drive and airway patency (sleep disordered breathing).

Two regions in the brainstem contribute to generate respiratory rhythms, the preBötzinger Complex (that drives inspiratory muscle activity) and the paraFacial Respiratory Group (that drives expiratory muscle activity). Our laboratory is interested in how respiratory rhythms are generated and modulated in control and under pathological conditions, in addition to different brain states (wakefulness, nREM and REM sleep). We are currently focusing our research efforts on the specific role of the expiratory rhythm oscillator (paraFacial Respiratory Group) across brain states and on how the two (inspiratory and expiratory) oscillators interact when both are active. We use a combination of physiological, anatomical, pharmacological and optogenetic techniques to test our hypotheses.

We are always looking for enthusiastic, motivated and reliable students to join our laboratory.

Undergraduate students interested in joining the lab for the summer, should make arrangement in the fall for the following summer. Undergraduate research projects (PHYSL467,468/469) are also available through the Department of Physiology during fall/winter terms.

Students interested in joining the lab as MSc or PhD candidates should contact directly Dr. Pagliardini with a letter of interest, a CV, a copy of undergraduate transcripts and a list of references. Priority will be given to students with background in neuroscience and physiology and prior laboratory experience in in vivo physiology, optogenetics and/or pharmacology.


Immunohistochemistry; light and confocal microscopy; electron microscopy; in vivo electrophysiology (EEG recordings, single unit recordings, stereotaxic micro-injections); in vivo respiratory physiology (respiratory muscle EMG recordings; whole body plethysmography); optogenetics; chemogenetics.

Selected publications

(Pagliardini lab students underlined)

  • Boutin, RC, Alsahafi Z, Pagliardini S. (2016) Cholinergic modulation of the paraFacial Respiratory group. J Physiol. Nov 3 doi: 10.1113/JP273012. link (Epub ahead of print)
  • Li P, Janczewski WA, Yackle K, Pagliardini S, Krasnow MA, Feldman JL (2016) The peptidergic control circuit for sighing. Nature 2016 530 (7590): 293-297. link 
  • Andrews C, Pagliardini S (2015). Expiratory activation of abdominal muscle is associated with improved respiratory stability and an increase in minute ventilation in REM epochs of adult rats. J Applied Physiology, in press. link
  • Alsahafi Z, Dickson CT, Pagliardini S. (2015) Optogenetic excitation of preBötzinger complex neurons potently drives inspiratory activity in vivo. J Physiol. 2015 Aug 15;593(16):3673-92. link
  • M.K. ElMallah, S. Pagliardini, S.M. Turner, A.J. Cerreta, D.J. Falk, B.J. Byrne, J.J. Greer, D.D. Fuller (2015). Ampakines Stimulate Respiratory Motor Output and Ventilation in a Murine Model of Pompe Disease. Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2015 link
  • J. Viczko, A.V. Sharma, S. Pagliardini,T. Wolansky, C.T. Dickson (2014). Lack of respiratory coupling with neocortical and hippocampal slow oscillations. J Neurosci. 34(11):3937-46. link
  • Pagliardini S, Funk GD, Dickson CT (2013) Breathing and brain state: urethane anesthesia as a model for natural sleep. Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2013 Sep 15;188(3):324-32. link
  • Pagliardini S, Gosgnach S, Dickson CT (2013). Spontaneous sleep-like brain state alternations and breathing characteristics in urethane anesthetized mice. PLoS One. 2013 Jul 30;8(7):e70411. link
  • S. Pagliardini*, J.J. Greer, G.D. Funk, C.T. Dickson (2012). State dependent modulation of breathing in urethane anesthetized rats. J. Neurosci. 32(33) 11259-70 (*corresponding author).  link
  • S. Pagliardini, W.A. Janczewski, W. Tan, C.T. Dickson, K. Deisseroth,  J.L. Feldman (2011). Active expiration induced by excitation in ventral medulla in adult anesthetized rats. J Neurosci. 31(8):2895-905. link
  • W. Tan*, S. Pagliardini *, P. Yang, W. A. Janczewski, J.L. Feldman (2010).  Projections of preBötzinger Complex neurons in adult rats. J Comp Neurol 518(10):1862-1878 (* first co-authors). link
  • S. Pagliardini*, J. Ren*, P.A. Gray, C. VanDunk, M. Gross, M. Goulding, J.J. Greer (2008). Central Respiratory Rhythmogenesis is Abnormal in Lbx1 Deficient Mice. J Neurosci 28(43):11030-41 (* first co-authors). link
  • S. Pagliardini, J. Ren, R. Wevrick, J.J. Greer (2005) Developmental abnormalities of neuronal structure and function in prenatal mice lacking the Prader-Willi syndrome gene necdin. Am J Pathol 167(1):175-91. link
  • S. Pagliardini *, T. Adachi *, J. Ren, G.D. Funk, J.J. Greer (2005) Fluorescent tagging of rhythmically active respiratory neurons within the pre-Botzinger complex of rat medullary slice preparations. J Neurosci 25(10):2591-6. (* first co-authors). link
  • S. Pagliardini , J.Ren, J.J. Greer (2003) Ontogeny of the Pre-Bötzinger Complex in Perinatal Rats. J Neurosci 23(29): 9575-84. link