Effects of changes in end-tidal PO-2 and PCO-2 on neural responses during rest and sustained attention


Impairments of cognitive function during alterations in arterial blood gases (e.g., high-altitude hypoxia) may result from the disruption of neurovascular coupling; however, the link between changes in arterial blood gases, cognition, and cerebral blood flow (CBF) is poorly understood. To interrogate this link, we developed a multimodal empirical strategy capable of monitoring neural correlates of cognition and CBF simultaneously. Human participants performed a sustained attention task during hypoxia, hypercapnia, hypocapnia, and normoxia while electroencephalographic (EEG) activity and CBF (middle and posterior cerebral arteries; transcranial Doppler ultrasound) were simultaneously measured. The protocol alternated between rest and engaging in a visual target detection task that required participants to monitor a sequence of brief-duration colored circles and detect infrequent, longer duration circles (targets). The target detection task was overlaid on a large, circular checkerboard that provided robust visual stimulation. Spectral decomposition and event-related potential (ERP) analyses were applied to the EEG data to investigate spontaneous and task-specific fluctuations in neural activity. There were three main sets of findings: (1) spontaneous alpha oscillatory activity was modulated as a function of arterial CO2 (hypocapnia and hypercapnia), (2) task-related neurovascular coupling was disrupted by all arterial blood gas manipulations, and (3) changes in task-related alpha and theta band activity and attenuation of the P3 ERP component amplitude were observed during hypocapnia. Since alpha and theta are linked with suppression of visual processing and executive control and P3 amplitude with task difficulty, these data suggest that transient arterial blood gas changes can modulate multiple stages of cognitive information processing.

ICB Affiliated Authors

Tom Bullock, Barry Giesbrecht, Andrew E. Beaudin, Bradley G. Goodyear, Marc J. Poulin
Peer-Reviewed Article
Physiological Reports