Slow breathing reduces chemoreflex response to hypoxia and hypercapnia, and increases baroreflex sensitivity

Luciano Bernardi, Alessandra Gabutti, Cesare Porta, Lucia Spicuzza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To investigate whether breathing more slowly modifies the sensitivity of the chemoreflex and baroreflex. Design Setting: University of Pavia, IRCCS Policlinico S. Matteo. Participants: Fifteen healthy individuals. Interventions: Progressive isocapnic hypoxia and progressive hyperoxic hypercapnia were measured during spontaneous breathing and during a breathing rate fixed at 6 and 15 breaths per minute (b.p.m.). Main outcome measures: Variations in chemo- and baroreflex sensitivity (by monitoring ventilation, oxygen saturation, end-tidal carbon dioxide, R - R interval and blood pressure) induced by different breathing rates. Results: Breathing at 6 b.p.m, depressed (P <0.01) both hypoxic and hypercapnic chemoreflex responses, compared with spontaneous or 15 b.p.m. controlled breathing. Hypoxic and hypercapnic responses during spontaneous breathing correlated with baseline spontaneous breathing rate (r = -0.52 and r = +0.51, respectively; P = 0.05). Baroreflex sensitivity was greater (P <0.05) during slow breathing at baseline and remained greater at end rebreathing. Conclusions: Slow breathing reduces the chemoreflex response to both hypoxia and hypercapnia. Enhanced baroreflex sensitivity might be one factor inhibiting the chemoreflex during slow breathing. A slowing breathing rate may be of benefit in conditions such as chronic heart failure that are associated with inappropriate chemoreflex activation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2221-2229
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Hypertension
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Baroreflex
  • Breathing rate
  • Chemoreflex
  • Hypercapnia
  • Hypoxia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology


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