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What is Respiration?

The process of respiration involves four stages ventilation which we know as breathing (inhalation or
inspiration and exhalation or expiration), exchange of gases between the air in the lungs and blood stream
(pulmonary diffusion), transport of gases in the blood (perfusion) and exchange of gases between the blood
and tissues (peripheral diffusion).

Respiration Process
The muscles of respiration contract thereby expanding the chest cavity.
This causes a negative pressure within the pleural cavity (where the lungs are housed) which
forces the lungs to expand.
The expansion of the lungs reduces the air pressure in the lungs.
This draws air from the environment which is at a higher pressure. Air will flow from an area of
high pressure to low pressure.
Air is taken in through the nose and the air is filtered and heated in the nasal cavity.
It then passes down the throat and enters the trachea where it rushes into the bronchi.
The bronchi divides the air flow between the two lungs.
The air then passes into smaller air tubes known as bronchioles and empty into the lungs.
The air enters the tiny air sacs within the lungs, called alveoli, where oxygen crosses into the
blood and carbon dioxide empties into the lung.
The respiratory muscles relax and the chest cavity contracts.
The elastic lungs recoil and pushes air out through the air passages where it is emptied into
the environment
However, this does not occur in isolation. The blood carries the oxygen to tissues by binding it to hemoglobin in the
red blood cells. The heart pumps this blood throughout the body ensuring that oxygen reaches all cells.
Simultaneously, carbon dioxide is carried away by red blood cells towards the lungs where it can be expelled.

Oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood are monitored by the respiratory center in the brainstem. This in turns
control the rate of respiration the speed of breathing. In addition, carbon dioxide can change the pH (acid-base
balance) of the blood and this also serves as a signal for the respiratory center.

Any trouble with breathing may indicate a host of causes affecting the airways, lungs, gas exchange, blood gas
transport and heart function and control of breathing by the respiratory center.

Process of Respiration: Physiological

For humans and other oxygen-breathing vertebrates, the process of respiration takes place
within the lungs, driven by a series of mechanics called inhalation and exhalation. These are the
biological mechanisms that make up breathing. We breathe in to take in oxygen, and breathe out
to expel carbon dioxide! Theres more involved with the process of respiration than just the
lungs, though. The entire process uses the nasal cavity, the mouth, the larynx, the trachea, and
the bronchial tubes of the lungs as well. Learn more about human anatomy in relation to
physiology in this course.

External Respiration
To breathe in and breathe out, we use our intercostal muscles, the muscle group that lies
between our ribs. When we breathe in through the nose or mouth, these intercostal muscles
contract, our sternum moves up and out along with our ribs, and our diaphragm flattens. The
diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that lies across the bottom of the rib cage, and it is vital for
proper respiration. When the diaphragm contracts, this allows the volume in our thoracic cavity
to expand, thus reducing pressure and enabling us to draw air into our lungs. With the help of our
diaphragm and thoracic cavity, our body creates a literal suction.
Similarly, when we exhale, our intercostal muscles and our diaphragm relax. This causes the
volume of the thoracic cavity to decrease and the pressure inside to increase, which expels the
air in what is called an exhalation.
Internal Respiration
What is actually happening inside the body between the inhale and the exhale? Thats where
internal respiration comes in. Internal respiration occurs after and during the process of external
respiration, and its when the gases in the air weve drawn into our lungs can be sorted out, the
oxygen absorbed in our blood and the carbon dioxide removed.
This happens because our heart is pumping oxygen-low blood through the pulmonary arteries
and into the lungs. At the ends of the pulmonary arteries are small blood vessels called
capillaries, which wrap like a net around the alveoli. The alveoli is where our bronchial tubes
transport the air we inhale. They are the round, clustered, and sac-like tips of the respiratory tree
where gas exchange occurs.
Inside the alveoli, the oxygen rich air weve inhaled is pumped into the red blood cells located in
the surrounding capillaries, enriching the blood with much needed oxygen. In exchange, the red
blood cells expel the carbon dioxide theyre carrying into the alveoli.
Carbon dioxide is a waste product created through the process of metabolism, and too much of it
in our blood can cause harm to our body. It can raise the levels of acidity in your blood, which is
damaging to your heart, and even cause suffocation! When you hold your breath by inhaling and
then not immediately exhaling, the reason you begin to feel light-headed is not actually due to
the sudden lack of oxygen intake, but the excess of carbon dioxide built up in your body. Of
course, both are just as important, so make sure to practice proper breathing techniques!

Once the air in your alveoli are enriched with carbon dioxide from the newly oxygen riched red
blood cells, this air travels back up the bronchial tubes and out the nose or mouth, in a process
called exhalation. At the same time, the pulmonary veins transport the oxygen rich blood back to
the heart to be distributed throughout the body.
he gas exchange process is performed by the lungs and respiratory system. Air, a mix of oxygen
and other gases, is inhaled.
In the throat, the trachea, or windpipe, filters the air. The trachea branches into two bronchi,
tubes that lead to the lungs.
Once in the lungs, oxygen is moved into the bloodstream. Blood carries the oxygen through the
body to where it is needed.
Red blood cells collect carbon dioxide from the bodys cells and transports it back to the lungs.
An exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place in the alveoli, small structures within the
lungs. The carbon dioxide, a waste gas, is exhaled and the cycle begins again with the next
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle below the lungs that controls breathing. The diaphragm
flattens out and pulls forward, drawing air into the lungs for inhalation. During exhalation the
diaphragm expands to force air out of the lungs.
Adults normally take 12 to 20 breaths per minute. Strenuous exercise drives the breath rate up to
an average of 45 breaths per minute.