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Activation Of Upper Airway Muscles Before Onset Of Inspiration In Normal Humans

K. P. Strohl, M. J. Hensley, M. Hallett, N. A. Saunders, R. H. Ingram

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Animal studies have shown activation of upper airway muscles prior to inspiratory efforts of the diaphragm. To investigate this sequence of activation in humans, we measured the electromyogram (EMG) of the alae nasi (AN) and compared the time of onset of EMG to the onset of inspiratory airflow, during wakefulness, stage II or III sleep (3 subj), and CO2-induced hyperpnea (6 subj). During wakefulness, the interval between AN EMG and airflow was 92 +/- 34 ms (mean +/- SE). At a CO2 level of greater than or equal to 43 Torr, the AN EMG to airflow was 316 +/- 38 ms (P < 0.001). During CO2-induced hyperpnea, the AN EMG to airflow interval and AN EMG magnitude increased in direct proportion to CO2 levels and minute ventilation. During stages II and III of sleep, the interval between AN EMG and airflow increased when compared to wakefulness (P < 0.005). We conclude that a sequence of inspiratory muscle activation is present in humans and is more apparent during sleep and during CO2-induced hyperpnea than during wakefulness.