Effect of hypoxia on abdominal motor unit activities in spontaneously breathing cats

J. H. Mateika, E. Essif, R. F. Fregosi

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17 Scopus citations


These experiments were designed to examine the behavior of external oblique motor units in spontaneously breathing cats during hypoxia and to estimate the contribution of recruitment and rate coding to changes in the integrated external oblique electromyogram (iEMG). Motor unit activities in the external oblique muscle were identified while the cats expired against a positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) of 1-2.5 cmH2O. After localization of unit activity, PEEP was removed, and recordings were made continuously for 3-4 min during hyperoxia, normoxia, and hypoxia. A total of 35 single motor unit activities were recorded from 10 cats. At each level of fractional concentration of end-tidal O2, the motor unit activity was characterized by an abrupt increase in mean discharge frequency, at approximately 30% of expiratory time, which then continued to increase gradually or remained constant before declining abruptly at the end of expiration. The transition from hyperoxia to normoxia and hypoxia was accompanied by an increase in the number of active motor units (16 of 35, 20 of 35, and 29 of 35, respectively) and by an increase in the mean discharge frequency of those units active during hyperoxia. The changes in motor unit activity recorded during hypoxia were accompanied by a significant increase in the average peak amplitude of the abdominal iEMG. Linear regression analysis revealed that motor unit rate coding was responsible for close to 60% of the increase in peak iEMG amplitude. The changes in abdominal motor unit activity and the external oblique iEMG that occurred during hypoxia were abolished if the arterial PCO2 was allowed to fall. We conclude that external oblique motor units are activated during the latter two thirds of expiration and that rate coding and recruitment contribute almost equally to the increase in expiratory muscle activity that occurs with hypoxia. In addition, the excitation of abdominal motor units during hypoxia is critically dependent on changes in CO2 and/or tidal volume.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2428-2435
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1996


  • electrophysiology
  • external oblique
  • rate coding
  • recruitment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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