Modulation of maximal inspiratory airflow by neuromuscular activity: Effect of CO2

A. R. Schwartz, D. C. Thut, R. G. Brower, E. B. Gauda, D. Roach, S. Permutt, P. L. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


To determine how maximal inspiratory airflow (V̇I(max)) is modulated by changes in airway neuromuscular activity, we analyzed pressure-flow relationships obtained during inspiration and expiration in isolated upper airways of anesthetized hyperoxic dogs at different levels of CO2. Inspiratory airflow (V̇I), hypopharyngeal pressure (Php), pharyngeal pressure at the flow-limiting site (FLS), and alae nasi (AN) and genioglossus (GG) electromyographic (EMG) activity were recorded while V̇I limitation was produced by rapidly lowering Php until V̇I plateaued at V̇I(max). V̇I(max) and its mechanical determinants, pharyngeal critical pressure (Pcrit) and nasal resistance (Rn) upstream to the FLS, were measured. During hypercapnia (high CO2), V̇I(max) increased significantly during inspiration (217.3) and expiration (184.1%). These increases were associated with significant increases in phasic but not tonic AN and GG activity. They were also associated with decreases in Pcrit from -6.2 ± 1.6 (SE) at hypocapnia to - 9.3 ± 3.0 and -11.8 ± 3.4 cmH2O at high CO2 during expiration and inspiration, respectively. No significant changes in Rn occurred. When phasic neuromuscular activity was abolished by complete neuromuscular blockade in three dogs, these increases in V̇I(max) and decreases in Pcrit at high CO2 were eliminated. When phasic EMG activity was accentuated in four vagotomized dogs, significant increases in V̇I(max) and decreases in Pcrit were demonstrated during inspiration vs. expiration at high CO2. These findings indicate that upper airway neuromuscular activity increases V̇I(max) in the isolated upper airway by decreasing collapsibility (Pcrit) at the FLS site when neuromuscular activity is stimulated by hypercapnia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1597-1605
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1993


  • Starling resistor
  • flow limitation
  • hypercapnia
  • isolated canine upper airway
  • sleep apnea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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