Let’s get to know What is Breathing and Respiration, before we get into ‘what part of the brain controls breathing’

We say we are ALIVE. So where is life? If it is in body, why is that we can’t survive in vacuum? As we all know we need air to live. The process which aids in connecting our body to atmosphere is called “Breathing”. Breathing in simple terms is inhaling of fresh air and exhaling out impure air.

Respiration is the biological term for breathing. Our body needs energy to survive. For this we consume food. Food is broken into small pieces and energy is released from the food. This process is called Metabolism. Respiration provides the oxygen required for metabolism and releases carbon dioxide which is the waste product produced.

What part of the Brain Controls Breathing


Brain can be compared to the manager of a big team. The manager controls and coordinates the activities of the team. In the same way different parts of the body performs activities as per the instruction given by the brain.

Brain starts where the spinal cord enters the skull. The brain has mainly for parts. They are:

  • Cerebrum : This is the largest part of the brain and is associated with functionalities like thought and action.
  • Cerebellum : This part is referred to as small brain and is responsible for movement, posture and balance.
  • Limbic System : Referred to as the emotional brain
  • Brain Stem : This part of brain controls actions like breathing, blood pressure, heart beat etc…




Parts of Brain Control Breathing

It has mainly three parts: Medulla Oblongata, Pons and Midbrain.

Medulla Oblongata and Pons in coordination controls the respiration process.

  1. PONS: This part of Bain Stem regulates breathing. It has a centre of nerve cells called pneumotoxic centre which controls the amount of air you breathe in and also the breathing rate i.e. the number of times you breathe in and out.
  2. Medulla Oblongata: This part of brain aids in respiration by detecting the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide inside the body and based on the levels in the bloodstream it determines what changes need to happen in the body and it sends signal to both respiratory system and heart, on what action it needs to take, either step up their game, or slow down a bit.

So now you have understood on what part of the brain controls breathing, let’s also understand on what happens during exercise

Breathing while Exercising

Let me illustrate this with a small example. Imagine you are doing a strenuous physical activity This exerts your muscle and it needs more oxygen. Medulla Oblongata detects this and sends signals to respiratory system and heart. On receiving the signal, the respiratory system starts breathing fast taking in more oxygen and releasing out the extra carbon dioxide produced. The heart in turn pumps this extra oxygen to the muscles for producing the energy required for the activity.

That gives you a pretty good idea of how the medulla oblongata controls the process of breathing. The main concept here is that there needs to be a good balance of things happening in your system in terms of respiration.

If your cells have what they need, they are happy. If they are happy, your body will be happy, and hence you will be happy.