1. To examine the effects of sustained resistive loading on the relationship between inspiratory effort sensation and respiratory drive (P0.1) and to determine if the change in CO2 responsiveness after sustained loading is accompanied by altered effort perception, hypercapnic responses were measured before, immediately after and 15 min after sustained resistive loading in seven subjects (six men, one woman). Sustained resistive loading was set to exceed a diaphragm tension—time index of 0.2.
2. Mean time to task failure during sustained loading was 17.7 min (range 12.5–22.5 min). The mean inspiratory effort sensation score rose from 3.4 (SEM 0.8) to 8.1 (0.8), whereas P0.1 fell from 29.5 (3.6) to 18.1 (3.6)cmH2O.
3. Immediately after loading the slopes of the ventilatory and sensory responses to CO2 fell (ventilatory response: before loading 16.7 (2.4)1 min−1 kPa−1, immediately after loading 7.88 (2.18) 1 min−1 kPa−1; sensory response: before loading 1.95 (0.38)units/kPa; immediately after loading 1.12 (0.38) units/kPa; P < 0.05. Changes reverted to preloading levels by 15 min.
4. Sustained loading can lead to a dissociation between respiratory drive, as reflected by P0.1, and inspiratory effort sensation, and this disturbance can persist once the load is removed. Impaired sensory perception may be the primary determinant of the change in CO2 responsiveness seen after sustained resistive loading.