Effects of acute hypoxia on cerebral and muscle oxygenation during incremental exercise

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2007 Jul;103(1):177-83. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01460.2006. Epub 2007 Apr 12.


To determine if fatigue at maximal aerobic power output was associated with a critical decrease in cerebral oxygenation, 13 male cyclists performed incremental maximal exercise tests (25 W/min ramp) under normoxic (Norm: 21% Fi(O2)) and acute hypoxic (Hypox: 12% Fi(O2)) conditions. Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) was used to monitor concentration (microM) changes of oxy- and deoxyhemoglobin (Delta[O2Hb], Delta[HHb]) in the left vastus lateralis muscle and frontal cerebral cortex. Changes in total Hb were calculated (Delta[THb] = Delta[O2Hb] + Delta[HHb]) and used as an index of change in regional blood volume. Repeated-measures ANOVA were performed across treatments and work rates (alpha = 0.05). During Norm, cerebral oxygenation rose between 25 and 75% peak power output {Power(peak); increased (inc) Delta[O2Hb], inc. Delta[HHb], inc. Delta[THb]}, but fell from 75 to 100% Power(peak) {decreased (dec) Delta[O2Hb], inc. Delta[HHb], no change Delta[THb]}. In contrast, during Hypox, cerebral oxygenation dropped progressively across all work rates (dec. Delta[O2Hb], inc. Delta[HHb]), whereas Delta[THb] again rose up to 75% Power(peak) and remained constant thereafter. Changes in cerebral oxygenation during Hypox were larger than Norm. In muscle, oxygenation decreased progressively throughout exercise in both Norm and Hypox (dec. Delta[O2Hb], inc. Delta [HHb], inc. Delta[THb]), although Delta[O2Hb] was unchanged between 75 and 100% Power peak. Changes in muscle oxygenation were also greater in Hypox compared with Norm. On the basis of these findings, it is unlikely that changes in cerebral oxygenation limit incremental exercise performance in normoxia, yet it is possible that such changes play a more pivotal role in hypoxia.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization
  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Altitude
  • Blood Volume
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Exercise*
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / blood
  • Hypoxia / metabolism*
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscle Fatigue*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Oxyhemoglobins / metabolism
  • Physical Endurance
  • Pulmonary Ventilation
  • Quadriceps Muscle / blood supply
  • Quadriceps Muscle / metabolism*
  • Quadriceps Muscle / physiopathology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared


  • Hemoglobins
  • Oxyhemoglobins
  • deoxyhemoglobin
  • Oxygen