1. Detection latency of a range of added elastic (0·95–4·50 kPa/l) and resistive (0·73–3·29 kPa l−1 s) loads to breathing were measured in five normal subjects. Detection latency was defined as the time from the onset of the breath to detection of the load.

2. Detection latency followed a curvilinear relationship when plotted as a function of the magnitude of the added loads. A similar relationship was found with both elastic and resistive loads although detection latencies to added elastances were longer than for added resistances.

3. When the added load was expressed in terms of comparable magnitude (peak inspiratory pressure) detection latencies for added elastances were found to be consistently longer than for added resistive loads.

4. These studies show that the detection latency to added inspiratory loads follows a reciprocal relationship, that detection latencies for elastic and resistive loads are clearly different and suggest that these loads are detected during the respiratory cycle at a time when the mechanical information regarding muscular pressure is greatest.

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