The brain is the very center of our being. It houses our habits, emotions, and controls all bodily functions.
Breathing is an automatic process we often don’t pay much attention to. But have you ever stopped to think about what part of the brain controls breathing?
The brain is responsible for interpreting sensory data, filtering our emotions, regulating our sleep patterns, and of course, our breathing.
Here’s what you need to know about what part of the brain controls breathing.
Is Breathing Controlled by the Brain?
Is our breathing controlled by the brain? Yes, it most certainly is. The part of the brain that controls our breathing is called the brain stem.
What Part of the Brain Controls Breathing?
According to experts, the brain stem controls breathing. It is located in the very back of the head, where the spinal cord connects with the skull. The brain stem regulates many important bodily processes, all of which are automatic and without our conscious influence. Apart from respiration, these include the respiratory process as well as heart rate, and blood pressure.
We may see it as a bridge of sorts. All the electronic signals of our brain have to pass through the brain stem before being transmitted to the rest of the body. The brain stem has three parts:
- The Pons
- The Midbrain
- The Medulla Oblongata
Which Part of the Brain Keeps You Breathing?
Breathing helps us to absorb oxygen from our atmosphere, and that oxygen plays a huge role in turning food into energy our body requires.
It also allows us to get rid of the carbon dioxide the respiration process generates.
The medulla oblongata is able to precisely detect the exact amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide within our system. Depending on this ratio, it signals the heart and the diaphragm with instructions on how to work.
The greater the level of strength we need to complete a task, the more oxygen we need. Therefore, both the respiratory and the cardiovascular system need to work harder to provide us with the amount of oxygen we need to produce energy and get rid of all the excess carbon dioxide.
For example, if we’re working out, we’re exerting ourselves more than usual. The medulla oblongata notices our body’s need for more oxygen (for oxygen is energy, and the greater the exertion, the more energy we need).
So it makes us breathe more heavily to increase oxygen intake. In addition, our heart beats faster so the necessary oxygen can be distributed to the muscles with increased speed.
The increased intake of oxygen helps us deal with the greater generation of carbon dioxide more efficiently as well. Thus, the medulla oblongata keeps the respiratory process balanced: in with the oxygen, out with the carbon dioxide.
However, if the oxygen concentration is too great, the medulla oblongata signals the respiratory and cardiovascular systems to take it down a notch or two.
“Too much of a good thing can be bad for you,” as the young people say these days.
To further illustrate the importance of the brain stem, we can say this: it is possible to survive the effects of an injury to other parts of the brain. But the injury to your brain stem is often fatal.
Learning how to consciously control the breath is easier said than done, but it can have a number of powerful benefits. Breathing calmly may also improve your balance, public speaking, and ability to control your emotions.