A review of the control of breathing during exercise

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Abstract

During the past 100 years many experimental investigations have been carried out in an attempt to determine the control mechanisms responsible for generating the respiratory responses observed during incremental and constant-load exercise tests. As a result of these investigations a number of different and contradictory control mechanisms have been proposed to be the sole mediators of exercise hyperpnea. However, it is now becoming evident that none of the proposed mechanisms are solely responsible for eliciting the exercise respiratory response. The present-day challenge appears to be one of synthesizing the proposed mechanisms, in order to determine the role that each mechanism has in controlling ventilation during exercise. This review, which has been divided into three primary sections, has been designed to meet this challenge. The aim of the first section is to describe the changes in respiration that occur during constant-load and incremental exercise. The second section briefly introduces the reader to traditional and contemporary control mechanisms that might be responsible for eliciting at least a portion of the exercise ventilatory response during these types of exercise. The third section describes how the traditional and contemporary control mechanisms may interact in a complex fashion to produce the changes in breathing associated with constant-load exercise, and incorporates recent experimental evidence from our laboratory.