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Keywords:

  • cerebral cortex;
  • control of breathing;
  • exercise;
  • humans

Abstract

Aim

The neural structures responsible for the coupling between ventilatory control and pulmonary gas exchange during exercise have not been fully identified. Suprapontine mechanisms have been hypothesized but not formally evidenced. Because the involvement of a premotor circuitry in the compensation of inspiratory mechanical loads has recently been described, we looked for its implication in exercise-induced hyperpnea.

Methods

Electroencephalographical recordings were performed to identify inspiratory premotor potentials (iPPM) in eight physically fit normal men during cycling at 40 and 70% of their maximal oxygen consumption (inline imageO2max). Relaxed pedalling (0 W) and voluntary sniff manoeuvres were used as negative and positive controls respectively.

Results

Voluntary sniffs were consistently associated with iPPMs. This was also the case with voluntarily augmented breathing at rest (in three subjects tested). During the exercise protocol, no respiratory-related activity was observed whilst performing bouts of relaxed pedalling. Exercise-induced hyperpnea was also not associated with iPPMs, except in one subject.

Conclusion

We conclude that if there are cortical mechanisms involved in the ventilatory adaptation to exercise in physically fit humans, they are distinct from the premotor mechanisms activated by inspiratory load compensation.