The Mechanism and Regulation of Breathing

The Mechanism and Regulation of Breathing

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The Mechanism and Regulation of Breathing

Breathing is an involuntary movement that is controlled by the
medulla, which is part of the hind brain. Air is sucked into the lungs
by an active process called inspiration. The external intercostals
muscle contract and the internal intercostals muscle relax this causes
the ribs to be drawn upwards and outwards. While this is happening the
diaphragm muscles contracts and pushes down towards the abdomen. The
lungs are made to expand because the pleural surfaces of the lungs are
attached to the pleural on the chest wall; this increases the volume
of the air spaces and drops the air pressure in the lungs so that air
rushes in.

Expiration is mainly an involuntary reaction to the external
intercostals and diaphragm muscles relaxing. The elastic fibres in the
stretched lung are recoiled which allows the ribs and diaphragm to
return to their original position. Air pressure in the lungs rise to
just above atmospheric pressure therefore the air is expelled.

Regulation of breathing is controlled by the respiratory centre in the
hind brain. The respiratory centre has three areas called the
medullary rhythmicity area, the apneustic area and the pneumotaxic
area. Basic rhythm of inspiration and expiration is controlled by the
medullary rhythmicity area. Nerve impulses from the apneustic area can
alter the depth of breathing and nerve impulses from the pneumotaxic
area can alter the breathing rate.

The respiratory centre is influenced by many sensory signals which
indicate what changes need to be done to the regulation of breathing.
One of the most important changes would be an alteration in the
concentration of hydrogen ions in the blood this could be caused by a
rise in blood carbon dioxide or an increase in tissue respiration in
the muscles during exercise. The respiratory centre is in its self
sensitive to raised hCo2 and responds by increasing the rate and depth
of breathing.

In the aortic arch and carotid bodies there are chemoreceptors these
sense changes to the blood oxygen tension but only respond to a large

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drop in oxygen. Baroreceptors are also found in the aortic arch and
carotid bodies and these are sensitive to a change in blood pressure.
The ph of the blood is monitored by the peripheral chemoreceptors. In
the walls of the bronchi and bronchioles there and stretch receptors
which are simulated by overstretching during excessive inspiration.

The control of breathing is a complex interaction and can be
influenced by many other factors e.g. raised body temperature, pain
and emotion. There is also an ability to control and alter our
breathing voluntary for various reasons such as speaking, yawning or
coughing.

Reference: Advanced human biology. J Simpkins. J I Williams.
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