1. The variable-pressure neck-chamber method was analysed in ten healthy volunteer subjects to determine its suitability for the study of the carotid baroreceptor reflex in man.
2. Positive and negative pressures applied to the neck (range ± 60 mmHg) were always transmitted linearly to a tissue catheter outside the carotid sinus, but only 86% of positive pressure, and 64% of negative pressure. Tissue pressures were confirmed by simultaneous measurement in the internal jugular vein adjacent to the carotid sinus.
3. Positive and negative pressure changes within the above range did not alter Po2 of internal jugular venous blood, suggesting that cerebral blood flow was unaltered.
4. Positive pressure changes induced reflex pressor responses of similar magnitude at arterial Po2 12·8 and 70·1 kPa (96 and 527 mmHg), suggesting that the carotid chemoreceptors were not involved.
5. It is concluded that the variable-pressure neck chamber is a valid method for selectively studying the carotid baroreceptor reflex in man. However, transmission of external pneumatic pressure to the carotid sinus is imperfect and greater for positive than for negative pressure. This must be recognized to avoid underestimation of gain and distortion of shape of the reflex.