The aim of the present study was (i) to investigate the effect of inner speech on cerebral hemodynamics and oxygenation, and (ii) to analyze if these changes could be the result of alternations of the arterial carbon dioxide pressure (PaCO2). To this end, in seven adult volunteers, we measured changes of cerebral absolute [O2Hb], [HHb], [tHb] concentrations and tissue oxygen saturation (StO2) (over the left and right anterior prefrontal cortex (PFC)), as well as changes in end-tidal CO2 (PETCO2), a reliable and accurate estimate of PaCO2. Each subject performed three different tasks (inner recitation of hexameter (IRH) or prose (IRP) verses) and a control task (mental arithmetic (MA)) on different days according to a randomized crossover design. Statistical analysis was applied to the differences between pre-baseline, two tasks, and four post-baseline periods. The two brain hemispheres and three tasks were tested separately. During the tasks, we found (i) PETCO2 decreased significantly (p < 0.05) during the IRH ( ~ 3 mmHg) and MA ( ~ 0.5 mmHg) task. (ii) [O2Hb] and StO2 decreased significantly during IRH ( ~ 1.5 μM; ~ 2 %), IRP ( ~ 1 μM; ~ 1.5 %), and MA ( ~ 1 μM; ~ 1.5 %) tasks. During the post-baseline period, [O2Hb] and [tHb] of the left PFC decreased significantly after the IRP and MA task ( ~ 1 μM and ~ 2 μM, respectively). In conclusion, the study showed that inner speech affects PaCO2, probably due to changes in respiration. Although a decrease in PaCO2 is causing cerebral vasoconstriction and could potentially explain the decreases of [O2Hb] and StO2 during inner speech, the changes in PaCO2 were significantly different between the three tasks (no change in PaCO2 for MA) but led to very similar changes in [O2Hb] and StO2. Thus, the cerebral changes cannot solely be explained by PaCO2.
We thank all subjects and the arts speech therapist Andrea Klapproth for their participation in this study, Rachel Folkes for proofreading of the manuscript, and the numerous participants of the ISOTT conferences 2010, 2011, and 2012 for their stimulating discussions about CO2 and cerebral hemodynamics/oxygenation.
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