Acute changes in carbon dioxide levels alter the electroencephalogram without affecting cognitive function

Elisabeth Bloch-Salisbury, Robert Lansing, Steven A. Shea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Scopus citations


The partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the arterial blood (PaCO2) is usually tightly regulated, yet it varies among healthy people at rest (range ~32-44 mmHg) as well as within an individual during many natural life situations. The present study examined whether modest changes in end-tidal PCO2 (PET(CO2); a noninvasive measure of PaCO2) affect electroencephalographic (EEG) activity, cognitive function, and vigilance. Nine adults were ventilated mechanically using a mouthpiece; respiratory rate and breath size were held constant while PET(CO2) was set to levels that produced minimal discomfort. Despite discrete changes in EEG, neither acute PET(CO2) increases (mean = 47 mmHg) nor decreases (mean = 30 mmHg) from resting levels (mean = 38 mmHg) affected performance on cognitive tasks, latency or amplitude of the N1, P2, or P3 event-related potential, or alertness. Modest changes in PET(CO2) may cause significant alterations in the EEG without disturbing cognitive function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)418-426
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 29 2000



  • AAT
  • ERPs
  • Hypercapnia
  • Hypocapnia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

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