ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Why do we sneeze? A team of Washington University researchers have pinpointed the neurons responsible for going ‘achoo.’
The region of the brainstem associated with sneezing was previously identified by researchers but the specific cells responsible for the reaction were previously unknown.
The scientists at Washington University in St. Louis came up with a unique way to find the neurons. They gave mice sneeze inducing compounds like capsaicin to encourage a reaction. Capsaicin is the same stuff that makes chili peppers spicy.
The researchers were monitoring the mice when they sneezed and found the signaling molecules being released. They are called neuromedin B.
It turns out that the cells responsible for sneezing are in the part of the brain that controls exhalation. The action required to sneeze. When they injected neuromedin B into the area the mice then sneezed. The Journal Nature says that this revealed the nose to brain stem pathway behind sneezes.