Modulation of human sympathetic periodicity by mild, brief hypoxia and hypercapnia

A. Trzebski, M. L. Smith, L. A. Beightol, J. M. Fritsch-Yelle, R. F. Rea, D. L. Eckberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


We determined the influence of brief mild normocapnic hyperoxia, hypoxia, and hyperoxic hypercapnia on human muscle sympathetic nerve activity and R-R intervals, as quantified by both time- and frequency-domain analyses. We obtained measurements in nine healthy young adult men and women during uncontrolled and frequency (but not tidal volume) controlled breathing. Responses were evaluated with forward selection and backward elimination statistical models, with muscle sympathetic nerve activity as the dependent variable, and power spectral techniques. Hyperoxia and hypoxia did not alter arterial pressure; hypercapnia increased diastolic pressure modestly. Average R-R intervals tended to increase during hyperoxia, and decrease during hypoxia and hypercapnia. During uncontrolled breathing, changes of inspiratory gases exerted only minor effects on muscle sympathetic nerve activity; during controlled breathing, both hypoxia and hypercapnia tended to increase muscle sympathetic nerve activity. Statistical modeling suggested that chemoreceptor stimulation increased muscle sympathetic neural outflows, but that increases of sympathetic traffic were opposed by secondary increases of ventilation. Inspiratory gases modulated the frequency distribution of muscle sympathetic nerve activity strikingly: hypoxia increased sympathetic power at respiratory frequencies and hypercapnia increased sympathetic power at both respiratory and (primarily in one subject) cardiac frequencies. Our data suggest that mild brief hypoxia and hypercapnia increase human muscle sympathetic nerve activity, but that this tendency is opposed by chemoreflex-induced increases of ventilation. Our results suggest also that chemoreceptor activity exerts important influences on the frequency content, as well as the quantity of sympathetic neural outflow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-35
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Physiology and Pharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1995


  • hypercapnia
  • hypoxia
  • sinus arrhythmia
  • sympathetic microneurography


Dive into the research topics of 'Modulation of human sympathetic periodicity by mild, brief hypoxia and hypercapnia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this