Bartlett (J. Appl. Physiol. 42: 717–721, 1977) demonstrated that a psychomotor task (hand dynamometer) extended breath holds at functional residual capacity (FRC) in a manner comparable to Valsalva and Mueller maneuvers. This led us to the hypothesis that distraction of a subject's attention from dyspneic sensations accounted for Bartlett's findings. This hypothesis was tested by comparing a hand dynamometer task (rubber-bulb squeeze) with a mental performance task (mental arithmetic). Results for tasks performed separately and concurrently in a within-subjects design showed comparable effects, without reaching a FRC breath-hold performance ceiling. Implications of results for effects of nonmechanical and nonchemical factors on respiratory drive are discussed.
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