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Acute changes in carbon dioxide levels alter the electroencephalogram without affecting cognitive function

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 2000

ELISABETH BLOCH-SALISBURY
Affiliation:
Physiology Program, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
ROBERT LANSING
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA
STEVEN A. SHEA
Affiliation:
Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
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Abstract

The partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the arterial blood (PaCO2) is usually tightly regulated, yet it varies among healthy people at rest (range ∼32–44 mmHg) as well as within an individual during many natural life situations. The present study examined whether modest changes in end-tidal PCO2 (PetCO2; a noninvasive measure of PaCO2) affect electroencephalographic (EEG) activity, cognitive function, and vigilance. Nine adults were ventilated mechanically using a mouthpiece; respiratory rate and breath size were held constant while PetCO2 was set to levels that produced minimal discomfort. Despite discrete changes in EEG, neither acute PetCO2 increases (mean = 47 mmHg) nor decreases (mean = 30 mmHg) from resting levels (mean = 38 mmHg) affected performance on cognitive tasks, latency or amplitude of the N1, P2, or P3 event-related potential, or alertness. Modest changes in PetCO2 may cause significant alterations in the EEG without disturbing cognitive function.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2000 Society for Psychophysiological Research

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