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A lightly anesthetized patient is still capable of spontaneously breathing and is artificially ventilated at his normal tidal volume, but twice his normal frequency, with a gas mixture of 50% O2 and 50% N2 for 10 minutes. On cessation of this artificial ventilation, the patient fails to breathe for 1 minute. The most important probable cause of this temporary apnea is decreased activity of the what?

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