The effects of hypercapnia, hypoxia, exercise and anxiety on the pattern of breathing in man

J Physiol. 1979 Aug;293:285-300. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1979.sp012889.


1. The pattern of breathing, defined as the relations between tidal volume and inspiratory and expiratory times, was measured during the stimulation of breathing by carbon dioxide (hyperoxic rebreathing at rest) in twenty-seven healthy, young volunteers. 2. Most of the patterns (twenty) were divisible into two parts, for low (range 1) and high (range 2) tidal volumes. The relations were curved, inverse proportionalities for both inspiration and expiration in range 2, and for expiration in range 1. The relations for inspiration in range 1 were evenly divided between those with constant inspiratory times (type 1) and those with curved, inverse proportionalities (type 2). 3. In four volunteers, direct proportionalities predominated and the patterns were scattered (type 3). 4. Eight of the volunteers (four type 1, two type 2 and two type 3 patterns) repeated the measurements and one changed from a type 1 to a type 2 pattern. 5. Nine of the volunteers also rebreathed during resting hypoxia. Two altered their patterns, and the others had patterns which were superimposed upon those measured during hyperoxic rebreathing at rest. 6. Eighteen of the volunteers also rebreathed (hyperoxic) during light exercise (25 W). Five entrained their breathing frequency to the exercise rhythm and showed exercise patterns with constant inspiratory and expiratory times. The others had patterns which were extensions of those measured during hyperoxic rebreathing at rest. 7. The pattern of breathing in range 1 was measured by steady-state methods in a further ten volunteers at rest with their eyes closed and open, and during mental arithmetic. The pooled average pattern showed that the stress of mental arithmetic shortened both inspiratory and expiratory times, and changed a type 2 pattern into a type 1 pattern.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Carbon Dioxide*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen*
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Respiration*
  • Tidal Volume


  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Oxygen