Measuring the respiratory chemoreflexes in humans

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2011 Jul 31;177(2):71-9. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2011.04.009. Epub 2011 Apr 14.


Breathing responds to changes in CO(2) and O(2) detected by respiratory chemoreceptors. In this paper I examine the methodologies for a quantitative assessment of the respiratory chemoreflex characteristics in humans. My intention is to provide the investigator unfamiliar with these methods an overview and introduction that allows them to choose the methodology that answers their needs. Included are brief background histories of such testing techniques and the way in which they have been refined and improved over time, a description of current techniques and tips for their implementation, and a comparative assessment of their relative strengths and weaknesses. I begin with a statement of the problem that provides a brief review of the chemoreflex control of breathing, and difficulties in measuring the chemoreflex characteristics. Then each of the two major methodologies, steady-state and rebreathing techniques are described in detail. Lastly, I compare and contrast these two methodologies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chemoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Reflex / physiology
  • Respiratory Function Tests / methods*
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena*