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Free Content Physiological and Cognitive Effects of Acute Normobaric Hypoxia and Modulations from Oxygen Breathing

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INTRODUCTION: The emergence of normobaric devices for hypoxia awareness training makes crucial the study of physiological and cognitive effects induced by acute normobaric hypoxia (NH) exposure. Our study aimed to 1) investigate the effects of acute NH exposure on physiological variables and working memory; and 2) investigate the physiological and cognitive effects of oxygen breathing before and after acute NH exposure.

METHODS: There were 86 healthy men who were randomized into 4 groups: the Normoxia-Air group (N = 23), whose subjects were breathing air; the Hypoxia-Air group (N = 22), where NH exposure was preceded and followed by air breathing; the Normoxia-O2 group (N = 21), whose protocol was similar to the Normoxia-Air group, except with the addition of 100% O2 breathing periods; and the Hypoxia-O2 group (N = 20), whose participants were exposed to 100% O2 before and after NH exposure. Working memory was assessed with the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test. Peripheral oxygen saturation (Spo2), heart rate (HR), and electroencephalogram (EEG) were recorded.

RESULTS: Acute NH exposure induced a classical physiological response (i.e., decreased Spo2 and increased HR), but not identical to the well-described physiological response to acute hypobaric hypoxia. Acute NH also caused a strong impairment in working memory. Oxygen breathing following NH exposure induced a slowing in the EEG associated with a worsening of working memory performance.

DISCUSSION: Acute NH exposure revealed a good surrogate for the classical hypobaric chamber for refresher hypoxia awareness training. Because the association between hypoxia and hyperoxia seems deleterious for the brain, we suggest that NH exposure should be surrounded by air breathing.

Malle C, Bourrilhon C, Quinette P, Laisney M, Eustache F, Piérard C. Physiological and cognitive effects of acute normobaric hypoxia and modulations from oxygen breathing. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2016; 87(1):3–12.

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Keywords: Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test; aeromedical training; altitude; electroencephalography; working memory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institut de Recherche Biomédicale des Armées (IRBA), Brétigny-sur-Orge, France

Publication date: January 1, 2016

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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