Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.
Understanding how we perceive the threat of breathlessness

Asthma affects 1 in 11 people in the UK. Recent major advances have shown that there are different types of asthma that can be treated in different ways.

Asthma and the brain

New medicines are already having a massive impact on types of asthma which are characterised by inflammation of the airways. However, for many people symptoms do not match the level of inflammation. According to Asthma UK, in up to 69% of people with asthma, stress and worry can make their asthma worse. This may happen without people realising it.

We are investigating how the brain is involved in asthma. The brain controls our breathing (for example, the diameter of the airways). The brain is also involved in the way each of us perceives breathing. We believe that the hub of interaction between these sensory and cognitive mechanisms is a tiny part of the brain known as the periaqueductal gray. You can read more about this on the Oxford Science Blog.

By better understanding how the brain is involved in asthma we will eventually be able to design new  treatments for asthma. These could particularly help people whose asthma is not completely controlled by currently available medicines.

People involved

The research is based in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and led by Kyle Pattinson, with Olivia Faull and Sarah Finnegan.

Collaborators include Mike Thomas and Ben Ainsworth (University of Southampton), and Sarah Garfinkel (University of Sussex).

Contact asthma@fmrib.ox.ac.uk for further information.