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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2009 Apr;106(4):1153-8. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.91475.2008. Epub 2009 Jan 15.

Frontal and motor cortex oxygenation during maximal exercise in normoxia and hypoxia.

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University of Colorado Altitude Research Center, Denver and Colorado Springs Campuses, Colorado Springs, CO 80918, USA.


Reductions in prefrontal oxygenation near maximal exertion may limit exercise performance by impairing executive functions that influence the decision to stop exercising; however, whether deoxygenation also occurs in motor regions that more directly affect central motor drive is unknown. Multichannel near-infrared spectroscopy was used to compare changes in prefrontal, premotor, and motor cortices during exhaustive exercise. Twenty-three subjects performed two sequential, incremental cycle tests (25 W/min ramp) during acute hypoxia [79 Torr inspired Po(2) (Pi(O(2)))] and normoxia (117 Torr Pi(O(2))) in an environmental chamber. Test order was balanced, and subjects were blinded to chamber pressure. In normoxia, bilateral prefrontal oxygenation was maintained during low- and moderate-intensity exercise but dropped 9.0 +/- 10.7% (mean +/- SD, P < 0.05) before exhaustion (maximal power = 305 +/- 52 W). The pattern and magnitude of deoxygenation were similar in prefrontal, premotor, and motor regions (R(2) > 0.94). In hypoxia, prefrontal oxygenation was reduced 11.1 +/- 14.3% at rest (P < 0.01) and fell another 26.5 +/- 19.5% (P < 0.01) at exhaustion (maximal power = 256 +/- 38 W, P < 0.01). Correlations between regions were high (R(2) > 0.61), but deoxygenation was greater in prefrontal than premotor and motor regions (P < 0.05). Prefrontal, premotor, and motor cortex deoxygenation during high-intensity exercise may contribute to an integrative decision to stop exercise. The accelerated rate of cortical deoxygenation in hypoxia may hasten this effect.

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