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The blog that discusses, disseminates and shares the process of measuring human performance

Measuring how the brain controls breathing

Neural control of breathing The muscles that make us breathe need to work or ‘contract’ both when we are awake and asleep to bring oxygen into the lungs (and remove carbon dioxide) to keep us alive. This contraction of our breathing or ‘respiratory’ muscles occurs because signals from the brain travel to the ‘motoneurones’ which are specialized cells in the spinal cord that cause muscles to contract. This ‘neural drive’ can come from different places in the brain, but the main area that controls breathing during rest (i.e. not exercising) and sleep is the brain stem, which is at the base of the brain. At the top of the brain is the somatosensory cortex, a region involved in making voluntary movements. The somatosensory cortex is the part of the brain that sends neural drive to the muscles in your shoulder, arm and hand when you reach...