Intermittent hypercapnic hypoxia during sleep does not induce ventilatory long term facilitation in healthy males

Naomi Deacon, Ronald McEvoy, Daniel Stadler, Peter Catcheside

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    9 Citations (Scopus)


    Intermittent hypoxia-induced ventilatory neuroplasticity is likely important in obstructive sleep apnea pathophysiology. Although concomitant CO2 levels and arousal state critically influence neuroplastic effects of intermittent hypoxia, no studies have investigated intermittent hypercapnic hypoxia effects during sleep in humans. Thus the purpose of this study was to investigate if intermittent hypercapnic hypoxia during sleep induces neuroplasticity (ventilatory long-term facilitation and increased chemoreflex responsiveness) in humans. Twelve healthy males were exposed to intermittent hypercapnic hypoxia (24 30 s episodes of 3% CO2 and 3.0 0.2% O2) and intermittent medical air during sleep after 2 wk washout period in a randomized crossover study design. Minute ventilation, end-tidal CO2, O2 saturation, breath timing, upper airway resistance, and genioglossal and diaphragm electromyograms were examined during 10 min of stable stage 2 sleep preceding gas exposure, during gas and intervening room air periods, and throughout 1 h of room air recovery. There were no significant differences between conditions across time to indicate long-term facilitation of ventilation, genioglossal or diaphragm electromyogram activity, and no change in ventilatory response from the first to last gas exposure to suggest any change in chemoreflex responsiveness. These findings contrast with previous intermittent hypoxia studies without intermittent hypercapnia and suggest that the more relevant gas disturbance stimulus of concomitant intermittent hypercapnia frequently occurring in sleep apnea influences acute neuroplastic effects of intermittent hypoxia. These findings highlight the need for further studies of intermittent hypercapnic hypoxia during sleep to clarify the role of ventilatory neuroplasticity in the pathophysiology of sleep apnea.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)534-543
    Number of pages10
    JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


    • Intermittent hypoxia
    • Long-term facilitation
    • Neuroplasticity
    • Sleep apnea
    • Ventilation


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