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The Respiratory System

Gas Exchange at a Major and Minor Scale

Christin DeMoss

Audience & Scope

Introductory physiology students will utilize this description to gain a more precise understanding of the respiration process. These physiology students will have prior knowledge of the subject through lectures and online readings. This description will not serve as a replacement to the lectures and readings, but will instead serve to enhance, clarify, and better organize existing knowledge. This description will extend the students' respiration knowledge and will comprehensively outline the process to help the students review the material.

The average adult human breathes 8 to 16 times a minute (Dugdale, 2011). With the average respiratory rate being 12 breaths a minute, and considering there are 1,440 minutes a day, the common person takes approximately 17,280 breaths a day. The process of respiration occurs in a stepwise sequence that involves inhaling oxygenated air and exhaling deoxygenated air. The components that convert air from oxygenated to deoxygenated are elaborated below. Respiration serves as a life sustaining process that all physiology students must understand completely and comprehensively.

The respiratory system is comprised of two divisions, the conduction division (major scale) and the respiratory division (minor scale). The conduction division includes: Nose and nasal/oral cavity Pharynx Larynx Trachea Bronchial tree These components can be observed in figure 1.
Figure 1: Conduction Division

Figure 2: Respiration Division

The respiration division includes: Alveoli

The alveoli can be observed in detail in figure 2.

Figure 3 B A

Part I: Conduction
1. The diaphragm contracts, pulling the lungs downward. 2. Since the atmospheric pressure is greater than the intrapulmonary pressure, gas rushes into the nose and mouth (Figure 3. A) 3. The capillaries in the nasal cavity warm the inhaled gas that then moves through the pharynx where it is further cleaned and humidified. 4. Air passes over the larynx which functions to keep anything besides air out of the lungs and also houses the vocal cords 5. Air passes into the trachea, which connects the larynx to the top of the lungs and cleans air further with cilia projections. 6. After passing through the trachea, the air enters the brachial tree and branches into the right primary bronchus and left primary bronchus, which lead into the lungs.
Atmospheric p < intrapulmonary p Atmospheric p > intrapulmonary p

Figure 4

Figure 5 7. Once in the lungs, air flows as follows:

Primary Bronchi Secondary Bronchi Tertiary Bronchi Bronchioles Terminal Bronchioles Respiratroy Bronchioles

(End of the conducting division)

Part 2: Respiration
Air now passes to the respiratory division (gas exchange)
Figure 6

1. As the air passes through the bronchioles, it will end in a hollow sac of cells called alveoli which make up the lungs 2. The interaction at the alveoli and capillary is called the respiratory membrane and is where gas exchange occurs 3. Deoxygenated blood from the right atrium passes through the pulmonary artery 4. The pulmonary branches into capillaries in the lungs that surround the alveoli
Figure 7

5. Oxygen diffuses across the respiratory membrane into the pulmonary arterioles and carbon dioxide simultaneously diffuses from the arterioles to the alveoli

6. The carbon dioxide will be exhaled 7. The oxygenated blood returns to the left artrium and left ventricle via the pulmonary vein where it will be transported all over the body

Homeostatic Regulation
1. Respiration control center is located at base of brain and includes the medulla oblongata and pons a. Control breathing rate b. Neurons run from control center to diaphragm 2. Chemorecptors in arteries monitor carbon dioxide, hydrogen ion, and oxygen concentration 3. As carbon dioxide builds up in the blood, it combines with water and breaks down into carbonic acid, which further breaks down into H+ and bicarbonate 4. Since the H+ concentration is being monitored by the chemoreceptors, it notes this change in equilibrium 5. To counter this change, it sends messages via afferent neurons to the respiratory control center, in return, efferent neurons tell the diaphragm and chest muscles to contract more quickly to increase breathing 6. The increase in breathing will cause CO2 to be expelled, and in return the H+ ions also increase (obeying Le Chat Piers principal 7. If H+ is too low, the respiratory control center will react oppositely and message the chest muscles and diaphragm to contract more slowly to slow the rate of inspiration

References 1. "Respiratory System Tutorial." Biology 142: Physiology Laboratory: Spring 2012. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. <>. 2. Dugdale, David C. "Rapid Shallow Breathing: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia." U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 25 May 2011. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. <>. 3.

Glossary Pharynx- the area at the back of the mouth that connects to the back of the nasal cavity Alveoli- aveoli are one cell thick and are surrounded by groups of capillaries