Avian cerebral blood flow: influence of the Bohr effect on oxygen supply

B. Grubb, James H Jones, K. Schmidt-Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


To clarify the problems of altitude tolerance in birds, we studied the combined effect of hypocapnia and hypoxia on cerebral blood flow (CBF) in ducks. CBF was measured by the xenon clearance method. Normocapnic hypoxia causes CBF to increase when the arterial O2 tension (PaO2) falls below 60-70 mmHg. Hypocapnic hypoxia significantly shifts the blood flow curve so that blood flow does not increase until a lower PaO2 (50-60 mmHg) is reached. This gives the appearance that hypocapnia suppresses the hypoxia-induced increase in CBF. However, due to the Bohr effect, the hypocapnic blood contains significantly more O2 than does the normocapnic blood at the same PaO2. Therefore, when CBF is expressed as a function of O2 content, rather than PO2, CBF in the hypocapnic group does not differ significantly from the CBF in the normocapnic group. We interpret this to mean that because of the significantly greater oxygen content of the hypocapnic blood at a given PaO2, the degree of hypoxia experienced by these brains is not as severe as that experienced by the normocapnic brains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1979
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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