Which Of The Following Is Not A Stimulus For Breathing
In order for us to live, we need oxygen. But how does our body get this precious substance from the air that surrounds it? To understand this process, you first have to know what happens inside your lungs. These are enclosed organs with a very peculiar function. They consist of two primary parts – the trachea (windpipe) and bronchi (bronchial tubes). When you inhale, these two structures absorb huge quantities of atmospheric gases into their cells. One of those gases is nitrogen which serves as the basic building block for life. Another important component of air is oxygen. This gas has four electrons in its outer shell. Oxygen atoms can be found floating freely in the atmosphere or they may combine with other elements like water vapor to form molecules called oxides. However, there are far fewer free-floating oxygen atoms than there are oxygen molecules. So, most of the time, the oxygen atom will attach itself to one or more hydrogen atoms. In turn, these hydrogen atoms give up a few of their electrons and become hydroxide ions. The ions then migrate through special channels in the cell walls until they reach the mitochondria where they release energy. If all goes well, the oxygen molecule is transformed into ozone (O3), but if something goes wrong, the oxygen atom attaches itself to another oxygen molecule, forming peroxide (HO2). Peroxide is highly reactive and it can damage healthy tissue; thus, it must be converted back to oxygen before it can do any harm.
The above description tells us why breathing is so important. It also shows that the lung’s ability to convert oxygen into usable chemical energy is vital to life. That said, the lung isn’t the only organ responsible for this job. There are actually several different types of tissues in the respiratory system that perform similar functions. For example, the nose contains specialized mucous glands that produce large amounts of liquid known as secretions. Inside the nasal cavity, these secretions mix with warm air and humidity to create tiny droplets of moisture. As the moisture evaporates, the resulting gaseous particles eventually find their way past the surface of the delicate membranes in your nostrils. Once the particles pass beyond your nostrils, the membrane on the right side of each nostril (called the anterior ethmoid bone) controls airflow by constricting small blood vessels that make up part of the lining of the sinuses. When the flow of air is restricted, the pressure increases throughout the respiratory tract. At the same time, the left superior laryngeal nerve sends a signal to close off certain passages in the throat so that less air can escape while you’re sleeping. Therefore, even though the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream remains constant, your body’s control over the rate at which it absorbs fresh supplies varies depending upon whether you’re asleep or awake.
It’s obvious that you don’t want to fall victim to sleep apnea. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nearly 30 percent of adults suffer from some type of sleep disorder. Sleep apnea occurs when you stop breathing momentarily during sleep due to temporary obstructions in your upper airways. Even though it seems harmless enough, apnea can cause serious health problems because it deprives your body of adequate levels of oxygen. Over time, repeated episodes of apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, memory loss, depression, obesity and diabetes.
So, how does your body prevent such complications? By controlling the number of breaths taken during sleep and waking hours. And since carbon dioxide is the main waste product produced by your body during respiration, it plays a major role in regulating your breathing patterns. Normally, an increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood is the strongest stimulant for breathing more deeply and more frequently. Conversely, when the carbon dioxide concentration in the blood is low, the brain decreases the frequency and depth of breaths.
Now, let’s take a closer look at how carbon dioxide affects breathing. Carbon dioxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Its molecular structure consists of one central carbon atom surrounded by four oxygen atoms attached to two hydrogen atoms. Since the carbon atom has no net charge, it cannot attract or repel positive or negative charges. However, the presence of neighboring oxygen atoms causes carbon dioxide to acquire a slight polarity. This polar attraction makes it possible for the molecule to interact with positively charged proteins in red blood cells. Proteins play an essential role in regulating many important bodily processes including the movement of fluids within the blood stream and the contraction of muscles. Because carbon dioxide interacts with proteins, the molecule attracts them toward the center of the plasma membrane. In doing so, the proteins change shape and reduce the tension along the surface of the membrane. The reduction in tension allows calcium ions to enter the cytoplasm and trigger muscle contractions.
Since carbon dioxide is so closely linked to breathing, scientists have performed numerous studies in an effort to determine exactly how changes in the acidity of the blood affect breathing patterns. For instance, researchers used an electroencephalograph (EEG) machine to monitor electrical activity in people’s brains while they breathed pure oxygen under three conditions. First, subjects were allowed to breathe 100% oxygen without being hooked up to any sort of ventilator. Second, they took short breaths of pure oxygen using a bag valve mask. Third, they inhaled 100% oxygen while wearing a tight fitting hood designed to increase the concentration of carbon dioxide in their bodies. After monitoring EEG readings, the researchers noted that the length of time between each breath was shorter in both the oxygen condition and the 100% oxygen condition than in the hooded condition. Also, the average volume of oxygen consumed was greater in the hooded condition than in either of the oxygen conditions. Finally, the EEG recordings showed that the level of cerebral activity decreased slightly in the oxygen condition and remained unchanged in the hooded condition. Based on these results, the authors concluded that the decrease in cerebral activity caused the slowed breathing rhythm observed in the oxygen condition.
Other research indicates that breathing patterns can be affected by factors other than increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood. For example, after a person wakes up from anesthesia, his or her normal pattern of breathing suddenly becomes erratic. During wakeful periods, the patient breathes rapidly and shallowly. However, following awakening, the person takes longer breaths and breathes deeper. Eventually, he or she returns to normal breathing patterns. Researchers believe that this behavior can be explained by the fact that carbon dioxide acts as a natural sedative. As the level of carbon dioxide rises in the blood, the brain releases endorphins (hormone-like chemicals). The endorphin rush counters the effect of carbon dioxide and stimulates breathing.
If you think about it, breathing should be considered a form of exercise. Just like swimming laps strengthens your arms, taking regular deep breaths improves your overall health. Deep breathing helps lower your resting heart rate and prevents your diaphragm from becoming stiffer. On top of that, breathing exercises help strengthen your respiratory muscles. With stronger muscles, you’ll be able to hold your breath for longer periods of time without feeling winded. Furthermore, deep breathing provides your lungs with additional oxygen supply. In essence, it gives your body a much needed “boost” of energy.
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