Hard at Work Breathing; The Tale of the Almighty Lungs (L150)

When you find yourself breathing hard or gasping for breath, is this due to a lack of oxygen or an excess or carbon dioxide? Explain your answer, including a discussion of feedback systems and the mechanisms that are at work when you breathe.

alveoli

(The Respiratory System)

trachea

(Trachea)

When you find yourself breathing hard, or deeply (and gasping), it is actually due to an excess of carbon dioxide, rather than a lack of oxygen. But before we get into this, let’s go back to the beginning. This whole process starts with the lack of recognition for the millions of cells and signals at work for the lungs! There is an entire world of hustling and bustling under your skin that puts the pieces in motion for you to thrive! The thoracic cavity (basically enclosed by rib-cage) enlarges, reducing the air pressure, when we breathe in. High pressure air is rushed in through the mouth and nose, and down the trachea into the bronchi and alveoli. (For a pretty cool interactive chart of the lungs, click here.) This then causes the diaphragm (located directly under the lungs) and intercostal muscles to relax. As you breathe out, the volume of the thoracic cavity shrinks, and air is pushed out as the pressure increases. Now to understand the body, you must keep in mind that every organ reports to the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid can be found on and in the brain and in the spinal cord; its job is to absorb the liquid and chemicals from inside the blood. This also includes absorbing carbon dioxide, which then turns into carbonic acid and dissolves into ions that lower pH. (This next set of stages is called feedback.) The decrease in pH in blood leads to a decrease in cerebrospinal pH. (Lower pH in this case simply indicates a high concentration of carbon dioxide) and finally the medulla oblongata signals faster, deeper breathing. Jacob Bear offered his own chart on feedback during lesson 149. I have created my own to help break this down simply!Learn Paper - 3 Bibliography
The Respiratory System. Digital image. Natural Health School. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 June 2015. <http://www.naturalhealthschool.com/bronchi_trachea.html&gt;.
Trachea. Digital image. The Free Dictionary By Farlex. Farlex, n.d. Web. 16 June 2015. <http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/trachea&gt;.

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