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Korttila K, Ghoneim MM, Jacobs L, Mewaldt SP, Petersen RC. 
“Time course of mental and psychomotor effects of 30 per cent nitrous oxide during inhalation and recovery”. 
Anesthesiology. 1981 Apr 24;54(3):220-6.
Two experiments were conducted testing the duration of action of nitrous oxide on human performance. In the first experiment, 11 subjects inhaled 30 per cent nitrous oxide for two periods of 40 min each, 45 min apart. Their mental and psychomotor skills were measured using free recall, tapping board, arithmetic and flicker fusion tests before and 2, 12, 22 and 32 min after establishing and end-tidal concentration of N2O of 30 per cent. Recovery was tested using the same tests 2, 12, 22 and 32 min after discontinuation of N2O. Eleven additional subjects inhaled oxygen only and served as a control group. In the second experiment, 8 subjects received both 30 per cent N2O and oxygen in cross-over fashion, and their flicker fusion threshold was measured. When compared to baseline or oxygen administration, N2O significantly impaired tapping rate, number of words recalled, and performance in arithmetic tests. The effects of N2O were maximal at 2 min and remained similar throughout the entire administration. In flicker fusion tests, the effects of N2O were similar to those of stimulant drugs; N2O improved the subjects' ability to discriminate the fusion of flickering light. Recovery was complete in 22 min. The effects of, and recovery from the second administration of N2O were similar to those of the first experiment. There was no evidence of development of tolerance to mental and psychomotor effects of the drug.
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