Acute partial paralysis alters perceptions of air hunger, work and effort at constant P(CO(2)) and V(E)

Respir Physiol. 2000 Aug;122(1):45-60. doi: 10.1016/s0034-5687(00)00135-3.


Breathing sensations of AIR HUNGER, WORK and EFFORT may depend on projections of central motor discharge (corollary discharge) to the forebrain. Source of motor drive (brainstem or cortex) may determine what is perceived. To test the effect of changing motor discharge at constant ventilation, we induced partial neuromuscular blockade during hypercapnic hyperpnea (31 + or - 9 L min(-1); PET(CO(2))=49 + or - 2 Torr) and during matched volitional hyperpnea (34 + or - 5 L min(-1); PET(CO(2))=41 + or - 1 Torr). Decline of vital capacity was similar between conditions (39%). Ventilation was unchanged with paralysis, indicating increased respiratory motor drive to maintain hyperpnea. Sensations were rated on a seven point ordinal scale. Median EFFORT and WORK increased 3-3.5 points with paralysis during both forms of hyperpnea (P<0.02, Wilcoxon signed rank). Median AIR HUNGER increased 2.5 points with paralysis during hypercapnic (P<0.02) but not during volitional hyperpnea. Data suggests that EFFORT and WORK arise from motor cortex activity (subjects reported engaging volitional control when paralyzed even during hypercapnia) and suggests that AIR HUNGER arises from medullary motor activity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air
  • Brain / physiology
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypercapnia
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents
  • Perception*
  • Plethysmography
  • Posture
  • Pulmonary Ventilation
  • Respiratory Paralysis / chemically induced
  • Respiratory Paralysis / physiopathology*
  • Respiratory Paralysis / psychology
  • Transducers, Pressure
  • Work of Breathing*


  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents
  • Carbon Dioxide