In this artistic masterpiece included above, I have decided to visually portray how the human brain splits up some of the main tasks pertaining to the control the organ has over the lungs. Lung control through the autonomic nervous system is headed by the activity of respiratory centers found in the medulla. In my fantastic piece of fine art, I specifically point out the dorsal respiratory group, the ventral respiratory group, and the pontine respiratory group, which includes both the pneumotaxic center and the apneustic center. As shown in my genius creative expression, the dorsal respiratory group is connected to the lungs. This is because the dorsal respiratory group is responsible for ensuring that the lungs maintain a constant, steady breathing routine, by taking input from chemoreceptors and stretch receptors that communicate from the pontine respiratory group. When we subconsciously breathe without making a conscious effort to do so, this is because the dorsal respiratory group is taking over for us. Of course, it does this by triggering contraction of the diaphragm, as well as the intercostal muscles, to bring in air to the lungs. But to get air out of the lungs, the dorsal respiratory group simply stops sending signals to the diaphragm and intercostal muscles, so that they relax and air flows out. This process shines light on what the pontine respiratory group actually does. The pneumotaxic center is responsible for stopping the dorsal respiratory group from triggering diaphragm contraction, thus allowing it to relax. The pneumotaxic center is essentially an “on and off switch” for the DRG, as it turns it off for each exhale. The apneustic center, on the other hand, is responsible for stimulating neurons on the dorsal respiratory group that control how deep inhales and exhales are, based on how much oxygen the body may need at the time.
The dorsal respiratory group is obviously very useful, as it can control breathing on its own so that we do not have to. However, what happens when we want to control our breathing? When we swim underwater, we may not want to breathe, as we would drown. Or maybe we want to perform focused breathing exercises during a yoga routine. Whatever the case may be, the ventral respiratory group is what allows us to voluntarily control our own breathing. It does this by stimulating the accessory muscles that are responsible for forced breathing, mostly muscles that surround the diaphragm, like the obliques. Accessory muscles contract to push organs against the diaphragm, forcing it to contract and relax in order to bring air into the lungs, and push it out.
All in all, the medulla contains key respiratory groups that are necessary for control of the respiratory system. As we all know, without oxygen, we would cease to live. So, autonomic nervous system control of the respiratory system through the dorsal respiratory group is important to allow us to steadily intake oxygen without having to make a constant conscious effort to do so. Also, the voluntary control of breathing through the ventral respiratory group is especially useful for when we want to take our destiny into our own hands.
DeSaix, P., Betts, J. G., Johnson, E., Johnson, J. E., Korol, O., Kruse, D. H., … & Young, K. A. (2013). Anatomy & Physiology: openStax.
Physiopedia. (n.d.). Muscles of respiration. Physiopedia. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Muscles_of_Respiration.
Zuperku, E. J., Stucke, A. G., Krolikowski, J. G., Tomlinson, J., Hopp, F. A., & Stuth, E. A. (2019). Inputs to medullary respiratory neurons from a pontine subregion that controls breathing frequency. Respiratory physiology & neurobiology, 265, 127-140.