Behavioral and cardiovascular effects of 7.5% CO2 in human volunteers

Depress Anxiety. 2005;21(1):18-25. doi: 10.1002/da.20048.


The study of carbon dioxide (CO2) inhalation in psychiatry has a long and varied history, with recent interest in using inhaled CO2 as an experimental tool to explore the neurobiology and treatment of panic disorder. As a consequence, many studies have examined the panic-like response to the gas either using the single or double breath 35% CO2 inhalation or 5-7% CO2 inhaled for 15-20 min, or rebreathing 5% CO2 for a shorter time. However, this lower dose regime produces little physiological or psychological effects in normal volunteers. For this reason we have studied the effects of a higher concentration of CO2, 7.5%, given over 20 min. Twenty healthy volunteers were recruited to a double blind, placebo-controlled study where air and 7.5% CO2 were inhaled for 20 min. Cardiovascular measures and subjective ratings were obtained. When compared to air, inhaling 7.5% CO2 for 20 min increases systolic blood pressure and heart rate, indicating increased autonomic arousal. It also increases ratings of anxiety and fear and other subjective symptoms associated with an anxiety state. The inhalation of 7.5% CO2 for 20 min is safe for use in healthy volunteers and produces robust subjective and objective effects. It seems promising as an anxiety provocation test that could be beneficial in the study of the effects of anxiety on sustained performance, the discovery of novel anxiolytic agents, and the study of brain circuits and mechanisms of anxiety.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / chemically induced*
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Carbon Dioxide / administration & dosage
  • Carbon Dioxide / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Panic Disorder / chemically induced*
  • Panic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Panic Disorder / psychology*


  • Carbon Dioxide