Effects of sulphur hexafluoride on psychomotor performance

Clin Physiol. 1992 Jul;12(4):409-18. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-097x.1992.tb00344.x.


The narcotic influence of sulphur hexafluoride on mental and psychomotor performance has been studied in 9 subjects at normal atmospheric pressure. Control experiments were performed with air and with nitrous oxide. Psychomotor, perceptual and cognitive abilities were assessed using a computerized test battery. Subjects were exposed to air and six different normoxic gas mixtures: 13, 26, and 39% N2O, and 39, 59, and 79% SF6. Significant performance impairments were found with 13% N2O and gradual further impairment with 26, and 39% N2O. During exposure to 39, 59, and 79% SF6 over-all performance was impaired by 5, 10, and 18%, respectively. Impairment was significant with 59 and 79% SF6. The results indicate that the relative narcotic potency of SF6: N2O is about 1:4 in humans. It is concluded that a normoxic SF6-O2 mixture can be inhaled for lung function studies without any harmful effects and that the short-lasting narcotic effect, although detectable with a test battery, would not impair the ability of the subject to perform simple breathing procedures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Learning / drug effects
  • Learning / physiology
  • Male
  • Nitrous Oxide / pharmacology
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Sulfur Hexafluoride / pharmacology*


  • Nitrous Oxide
  • Sulfur Hexafluoride