Resistive respiratory loading is an established stimulus for the induction of experimental dyspnoea. In comparison to unloaded breathing, resistive loaded breathing alters end-tidal CO2 (P(ET)CO2), which has independent physiological effects (e.g. upon cerebral blood flow). We investigated the subjective effects of resistive loaded breathing with stabilized P(ET)CO2 (isocapnia) during manual control of inspired gases on varying baseline levels of mild hypercapnia (increased P(ET)CO2). Furthermore, to investigate whether perceptual habituation to dyspnoea stimuli occurs, the study was repeated over four experimental sessions. Isocapnic hypercapnia did not affect dyspnoea unpleasantness during resistive loading. A post hoc analysis revealed a small increase of respiratory unpleasantness during unloaded breathing at +0.6 kPa, the level that reliably induced isocapnia. We did not observe perceptual habituation over the four sessions. We conclude that isocapnic respiratory loading allows stable induction of respiratory unpleasantness, making it a good stimulus for multi-session studies of dyspnoea.
Keywords: Dyspnoea; FMRI; Habituation; Isocapnia; Perception; Respiratory loading.
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