Breathing pattern in humans: diversity and individuality

Respir Physiol. 2000 Sep;122(2-3):123-9. doi: 10.1016/s0034-5687(00)00154-7.


In adult awake human subjects at rest, there exists a diversity in the breathing pattern not only in terms of tidal volume and inspiratory and expiratory duration and derived variables (TTOT, VT/TI and TI/TTOT) but also in the airflow profile. Besides this diversity, in every recording of ventilation at rest in steady-state condition breath-to-breath fluctuations are observed in ventilatory variables. This variability is non random and may be explained either by a central neural mechanism or by instability in the chemical feedback loops. Beyond this variability, each individual appears to select one particular pattern among the infinite number of possible combination of ventilatory variables and airflow profile. This one particular pattern appears to be a relatively stable characteristic of an adult individual being reproducible in several conditions and above all, after a long period of time. Consequences of this individuality of breathing pattern are discussed with regard to the selection of control subjects for a study and also per se: are there physiological situations where differences may be observed solely because of the differences in the pattern of breathing?

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Respiration*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*