In eight conscious spontaneously breathing adults we studied the decay of pressure developed by the inspiratory muscles during expiration (PmusI). PmusI was obtained according to the following equation: PmusI(t) = Ers X V(t) - Rrs X V(t), where V is volume and V is flow at any instant t during spontaneous expiration, and Ers and Rrs are, respectively, the passive elastance and resistance of the total respiratory system. Ers was determined with the relaxation method, and resistance with the interrupter method. All subjects showed marked braking of expiratory flow by PmusI. The mean time for PmusI to reduce to 50 and 0% amounted, respectively, to 23 and 79% of expiratory time. During expiration, 24-55% of the elastic energy stored during inspiration was used as resistive work and the remainder (45-76%) as negative work.