Background: Inappropriate ventilator assist plays an important role in the development of diaphragm dysfunction. Ventilator under-assist may lead to muscle injury, while over-assist may result in muscle atrophy. This provides a good rationale to monitor respiratory drive in ventilated patients. Respiratory drive can be monitored by a nasogastric catheter, either with esophageal balloon to determine muscular pressure (gold standard) or with electrodes to measure electrical activity of the diaphragm. A disadvantage is that both techniques are invasive. Therefore, it is interesting to investigate the role of surrogate markers for respiratory dive, such as extradiaphragmatic inspiratory muscle activity. The aim of the current study was to investigate the effect of different inspiratory support levels on the recruitment pattern of extradiaphragmatic inspiratory muscles with respect to the diaphragm and to evaluate agreement between activity of extradiaphragmatic inspiratory muscles and the diaphragm. Methods: Activity from the alae nasi, genioglossus, scalene, sternocleidomastoid and parasternal intercostals was recorded using surface electrodes. Electrical activity of the diaphragm was measured using a multi-electrode nasogastric catheter. Pressure support (PS) levels were reduced from 15 to 3 cmH2O every 5 min with steps of 3 cmH2O. The magnitude and timing of respiratory muscle activity were assessed. Results: We included 17 ventilated patients. Diaphragm and extradiaphragmatic inspiratory muscle activity increased in response to lower PS levels (36 ± 6% increase for the diaphragm, 30 ± 6% parasternal intercostals, 41 ± 6% scalene, 40 ± 8% sternocleidomastoid, 43 ± 6% alae nasi and 30 ± 6% genioglossus). Changes in diaphragm activity correlated best with changes in alae nasi activity (r2 = 0.49; P < 0.001), while there was no correlation between diaphragm and sternocleidomastoid activity. The agreement between diaphragm and extradiaphragmatic inspiratory muscle activity was low due to a high individual variability. Onset of alae nasi activity preceded the onset of all other muscles. Conclusions: Extradiaphragmatic inspiratory muscle activity increases in response to lower inspiratory support levels. However, there is a poor correlation and agreement with the change in diaphragm activity, limiting the use of surface electromyography (EMG) recordings of extradiaphragmatic inspiratory muscles as a surrogate for electrical activity of the diaphragm.