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The psychobiology of strained breathing and its cardiovascular implications: A functional system review

  • DIRK S. FOKKEMA (a1)
    • Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 March 1999


Strained breathing is a natural respiratory pattern, with cardiovascular implications. It is associated with social factors, attention, expectation, and anxiety and with defense behavior in animals. An inhibition of active behavior is characteristic. Strained breathing is based on the functional heterogeneity of the medullary postinspiratory neurons. In stressful circumstances, muscle tension and laryngeal reflexes induce a strong reduction of airflow in the glottis, resulting in a prolonged Stage I of expiration and an elevated intrathoracic pressure. The resulting elevations of blood pressure and CO2 level further stimulate the strained breathing pattern. The straining factor intrathoracic pressure is an important psychophysiological parameter. Functional aspects of strained breathing may be an elevated brain perfusion and the prevention of hyperventilation. It induces blood pressure oscillations and respiratory sinus arrhythmia. Frequent strained breathing may contribute to cardiovascular pathology and sleep apnea, creating a link between functional behavior and disease.


Corresponding author

Address reprint requests to: Dr. D. S. Fokkema, Department of Animal Physiology, P.O. Box 14, 9750 AA Haren, The Netherlands. E-mail:
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  • ISSN: 0048-5772
  • EISSN: 1469-8986
  • URL: /core/journals/psychophysiology
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