Effects of water on cortical excitability in humans

Viktor Müller, Niels Birbaumer, Hubert Preißl, Christoph Braun, Florian Lang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effects of water on cortical excitability, measured using magnetoencephalographic recordings, were investigated in a sample of 19 healthy volunteers in a double-blind, placebo experiment comparing water with saline solution. Spontaneous magnetoencephalogram as well as auditory-evoked magnetic fields were recorded before and after the drinking of 750 mL water (9 subjects) or saline solution (10 subjects) and during and after hyperventilation following the drinking conditions. Hyperventilation was used to enhance the hypothesized synchronizing effect of water on spontaneous magnetoencephalographic activity. In addition, the magnetic fields were measured during a dichotic listening task under attended and unattended conditions. The prediction, that intake of water, because of induced cell swelling, will increase neuronal excitability and lead to an increased synchronization of the spontaneous magnetoencephalogram during hyperventilation was confirmed. Hyperventilation induced an increase of spectral power in all frequency bands particularly theta and delta power after water drinking. Furthermore, there was an increase of magnetic mismatch negativity (MMNm) amplitude in attended conditions and a simultaneous decrease in unattended conditions after water drinking. N1m (magnetic N1 wave) revealed significant changes during experimental conditions: increase after drinking and decrease after hyperventilation in both groups. MMNm for attended conditions showed a high positive correlation with osmolality changes (difference in the mol solute per kg water before and after drinking); N1m and PNm (magnetic processing negativity) as well as MMNm for unattended conditions showed significant correlations with subjective ratings of thirst and mood state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)528-538
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Attention
  • Hyperventilation
  • Mismatch negativity
  • Plasma osmolality
  • Spectral power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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