The respiratory chemoreflex is known to be modified during orthostatic stress although the underlying mechanisms remain to be established. To determine the potential role of cerebral hypoperfusion, we examined the relationship between changes in MCA Vmean (middle cerebral artery mean blood velocity) and V̇E (pulmonary minute ventilation) from supine control to LBNP (lower body negative pressure; −45mmHg) at different CO2 levels (0, 3.5 and 5% CO2). The regression line of the linear relationship between V̇E and PETCO2 (end-tidal CO2) shifted leftwards during orthostatic stress without any change in sensitivity (1.36±0.27 l/min per mmHg at supine to 1.06±0.21 l/min per mmHg during LBNP; P=0.087). In contrast, the relationship between MCA Vmean and PETCO2 was not shifted by LBNP-induced changes in PETCO2. However, changes in V̇E from rest to LBNP were more related to changes in MCA Vmean than changes in PETCO2. These findings demonstrate for the first time that postural reductions in CBF (cerebral blood flow) modified the central respiratory chemoreflex by moving its operating point. An orthostatically induced decrease in CBF probably attenuated the ‘washout’ of CO2 from the brain causing hyperpnoea following activation of the central chemoreflex.

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