Transfer function analysis has become one of the main techniques to study the dynamic relationship between cerebral blood flow and arterial blood pressure, but the influence of different respiratory rates on cerebral blood flow has not been fully investigated. In 14 healthy volunteers, middle cerebral artery blood flow velocity, recorded using transcranial Doppler ultrasound, non-invasive beat-to-beat Finapres blood pressure, ECG and end-tidal CO2 (PETCO2) levels were recorded with subjects resting supine and breathing spontaneously or at controlled rates of 6, 10 and 15 breaths/min. Transfer function analysis and impulse and step responses were computed at each respiratory rate. PETCO2 levels tended to fall slightly during paced respiration, especially at 15 breaths/min. Controlled breathing rates did not alter transfer function analysis in the frequency range below 0.08 Hz but, above this frequency, the coherence function contained significant peaks corresponding to the respiratory frequencies. The impulse response was similar at all breathing rates, but the step response was characteristic of more efficient autoregulation with reduced PETCO2 levels associated with increasing respiratory rate. The effects of breathing rate and rhythmicity and PETCO2 must be considered in studies of cerebral autoregulation.

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