1. The ventilatory and circulatory responses to electrically induced leg exercise (EEL) were studied in seven normal subjects and compared with the responses to performing the same exercise voluntarily (EV). 2. EEL was produced by surface electrode stimulation of the quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups. This produced a push-relax pattern of exercise against a spring load and was free of any pain or discomfort. EV, at the same level, was achieved by subjects copying a display of timing and force information on a storage oscilloscope. 3. Cardiac output was estimated using validated Doppler ultrasound measurements of the velocity in the ascending aorta, combined with an estimate of aortic cross-sectional area using M-mode echocardiography. 4. Data from EV and EEL exercise runs were matched, within subjects, for the increase in oxygen consumption during the first 30 s of exercise; there were no significant differences between the resting states prior to either form of exercise. 5. The first ten beats of exercise were used to study the circulatory on-transient. The cardiac output responses to both EV and EEL were similar; however, in EV alone there was an initial significant drop in stroke volume and a slightly greater rise in heart rate. 6. The first five breaths of the response were used to study the ventilatory on-transient, and by measuring cardiac output, stroke volume and heart rate throughout each breath, the relationship between circulatory and ventilatory variables could be assessed. Ventilation showed a significantly greater rise at the onset of exercise during EV than during EEL; PET,CO2 (end-tidal CO2 pressure) showed small but significant falls for both EV and EEL. 7. The circulatory changes on a breath-by-breath basis are similar for EV and EEL although the ventilatory changes differ. In both EV and EEL the average increase in ventilation at the onset of exercise is proportionally greater than the average increases in cardiac output. Individual exercise runs show no particular relationship between circulatory and ventilatory change. 8. The results provide no support in man during mild leg exercise for a 'cardiodynamic' drive to breathing.
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