brainparts

What parts of the brain control respiration

First off, lets talk about what respiration is. In order for you to live, your body needs oxygen. Cells use this oxygen in order for metabolism to take place and without it, you would have no energy. When you eat, that food is broken down and the process of respiration allows for you to convert that food into an energy form that can be used by your body.

In addition to providing the body with Oxygen, it’s also responsible for getting rid of Carbon Dioxide, which is a waste product that is made in the body.

brainparts

Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator; C. Carl Jaffe, MD, cardiologist.

Now that we have that covered, lets talk about the involvement of the brain in this process. Your brain starts where the spinal cord enters the skull, and the first section that you encounter is called the Brain Stem. The brain stem contains the following structures:

  • The medulla oblongata (I love that name)
  • The Pons
  • The Midbrain

The medulla oblongata is involved in regulating many of the bodily processes that are controlled automatically like blood pressure, heart rate and yes, you guessed it . . . RESPIRATION.

The way this works is relatively straightforward. The medulla oblongata basically detects carbon dioxide (CO2) and Oxygen (O2) levels in the bloodstream and determines what changes need to happen in the body. It can then send nerve impulses to muscles in the heart and diaphragm, letting them know that they need to either step up their game, or slow down a bit.

The reason I mentioned the heart is because the respiratory system is very much tied to  the circulatory system.

What Happens During Exercise

Lifting Weights :)

Lifting Weights :)

When you are exercising, you are using your muscles in a significant way, and your body demands that you take in more oxygen so that it can be delivered to your muscles. You circulatory and respiratory system needs to make sure that the oxygen is getting to the muscles faster than when you are just chilling. Also, they need to make sure that the CO2 that is produced is taken away efficiently.

In order for that process to happen efficiently, the medulla oblongata, after sensing what is happening, sends signals to the heart and the respiratory muscles (diaphragm and intercostal muscles). You start breading heavily (increased respiration) to get that O2 in and CO2 out. You heart starts beating faster because not only does the oxygen need to get into the body, but they need to be delivered to the muscles.

That gives you a pretty good idea of how the medulla oblongata controls the process of respiration. The main concept here is that there needs to be a good balance of things happening in your system in terms of respiration. If your cells have what they need, your cells are happy. If they are happy, your body is happy, and hopefully so are you.

Questions or Comments?

If you have any questions or comments about how this process works, or what I’ve written here, please post them below in the comments section.

10 comments
Dale
Dale

Hello & thnx for the info. & area to ask a Q. 

Wondering if you'd know if the birth control pills of the 1960's (which were very strong, esp. in my 98 lb. body) could affect the respiratory system (i.e., keep it depressed as in constant shallow breathing + some occasional unaware breath-holding). OR would the excess copper in the brain that the excess estrogen of the B.C. pills created be what could depress breathing ability?

Thanks so much for a reply.

~Dale

AliceJ
AliceJ

so if someone had a tonic clonic seizure, what part of the brain is affected that would cause respiratory distress?


Maternity Angel
Maternity Angel

What happens when this process is disrupted due to central sleep apnea? What if severe  (>120 hour) CSA is not treated?

Glenn Nelsey
Glenn Nelsey

My wife was given Ativan in the hospital to calm her down, I think they gave her way too much because not two minutes after it was put in the shunt her head flopped down and she never spoke another word and died seven days later. My research tells me the hearts respiratory system has as lot to do with the bodies organs, would the lack of oxygen to all the organs cause them to shut down and cause death. She was in "Stage 5 of Alzheimer's disease, but in the hospital because her sugar was elevated. The next day after that happened they started to treat her like terminal patient. I have talked to every one at the hospital to get some answers but no one will help me. I pray you can help me on this so I can find out what happened to my wife of 62 years.

Bat_Sheva
Bat_Sheva

@Glenn Nelsey Sorry to hear about your wife, I hope you find the answers your looking for. 

Yusuf Bhalli
Yusuf Bhalli

Greetings sir, My question is, where from the medulla oblongata the nerve pass and gets connected to the heart ; is it from front side of the neck or the back.

Madz
Madz

OMG this really helps with the assignment I am doing

Madz
Madz

and maybe even with the test I am doing at school. thanks so much for making this website it really helps a lot

An Luân
An Luân

Hello sir. Thanks for the lectures, although I have a question. You said:"The medulla oblongata basically detects carbon dioxide (CO2) and Oxygen (O2) levels in the bloodstream..." to regulate respiration while as I know, it is the H+ ions that are detected instead since CO2 and O2 cannot reach Medulla due to its size. Any idea sir? Well, I know that CO2 has a a thing or two to do with pH in the body. Still it is kind of misleading by saying Medulla works base on the concentration of CO2 and O2, is it not?

flor
flor

thanks yr site is very helpful and i love the name medulla oblongata to thanks again