Central chemoreceptors

Central chemoreceptors (through the cerebrospinal fluid and cerebral blood vessels) play a major role in the regulation of breathing through the CO 2 pressure (PCO2) and/or pH. An increase in PaCO2 immediately stimulates ventilation. However, if an abnormal level of PCO2 is maintained over several days, the pH of the cerebrospinal fluid returns to normal (compensatory bicarbonate shift). Thus changes in arterial CO 2 have a very potent acute effect on respiratory control, but only weak chronic effects after adaptation. Compensatory changes in cerebrospinal fluid bicarbonate and restoration of cerebrospinal fluid pH are important in chronic respiratory or metabolic acid-base imbalances (e.g. in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)).

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