1. The effect of mental arithmetic tasks on ventilation, breathing pattern, oxygen intake and carbon dioxide output was studied during air breathing and carbon dioxide rebreathing in healthy subjects.
2. Ventilation and breathing frequency increased significantly on performance of the task during 4 min air breathing and 4 min rebreathing; tidal volume was unchanged. The slopes of the ventilatory, frequency and tidal volume responses to carbon dioxide changed little during task performance.
3. During 15 min air breathing, oxygen intake was unchanged with task performance. Carbon dioxide output increased significantly with task performance, as a result of wash-out of carbon dioxide from body stores by the increased ventilation.
4. Mental arithmetic had no effect on the coefficients of variation of the slope and position variables of the ventilatory, frequency and tidal volume responses to carbon dioxide. It is concluded that task performance does not improve the reproducibility of these responses.