The cough reflex represents a primary defensive mechanism for airway protection in a variety of mammalian species. However, excessive and inappropriate coughing can emerge as a primary presenting symptom of many airway diseases. Cough disorders are characterized by a reduction in the threshold for reflex initiation and, as a consequence, the occurrence of cough in response to stimuli that are normally innocuous in nature. The current therapeutic strategies for the treatment of cough disorders are only moderately effective. This undoubtedly relates in part to limitations in our understanding of the neural components comprising the cough reflex pathway. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of current concepts relating to the sensory innervation to the mammalian airways, focusing particularly on the sensory receptors that regulate cough. In addition, the review will highlight particular areas and issues relating to cough neurobiology that are creating controversy in the field.