A Simple Explanation of the Hering-Breuer Reflex
To grasp even a simple explanation of the Hering-Breuer reflex, you need at least a basic understanding of inhalation, also known as inspiration (breathing in), and of exhalation, which is also called expiration (breathing out). The "impulse" to breath originates in the brain, specifically in areas called the pons and the medulla, which are in the brainstem. To keep things simple, just remember that the brain stimulates a person to breath by sending "messages" to areas of the body involved in the process of breathing. Messages are sent via nerve cells or neurons, which form a highly complex system of communication within the body. Yes, there is much involved with what seems so simple such as taking a breath. The Hering-Breuer reflex is just one essential part of the big picture.
Phrenic Nerves, the Diaphragm, and the Intercostal Muscles
Again, nerves carry information. Motor nerves cause some type of movement. The phrenic nerves are the motor nerves involved in respiration and are found in the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles, which they cause to move. The diaphragm is simply a muscle; it separates the thoracic (chest) cavity from the abdominal cavity. "Intercostal" simply means between the ribs. So, intercostal muscles are muscles that are between the ribs. Again, this understanding is necessary to understand the workings and the importance of the Hering-Breuer reflex.
During inhalation (inspiration), the diaphragm receives the message to contract. Contraction is movement. As it responds, it moves down and flattens, which expands the chest. At the same time, the intercostal muscles lift the ribs and push them outward, helping to expand the chest. This expansion causes the pressure in the lungs to fall below atmospheric pressure, creating what is known as a vacuum. Essentially what happens is the expansion causes air to flow into the lungs and inflate them. It's interestng to learn that were it not for the operation of the Hering-Breuer reflex, the lungs would continue to inflate, even to the point of bursting.
The Hering-Breuer Reflex in Action
Over-expansion of the lungs does not happen because of the Hering-Breuer reflex that God built-in to protect against such damage. As the chest cavity expands during inhalation, natural "watchmen," known as stretch receptors, which are present in the chest wall and in the bronchioles, send signals through what is called the vagus nerve, to the apneustic center. The thing to remember is that these messages inform of the need to stop inhalation, and thus, expansion of the chest to protect the body. This protection is referred to as the Hering-Breuer reflex.
This body is so extremely complex that scientists admit that they do not even fully understand how a single cell works. How then can they fully understand a being that is composed of trillions of various types of cells? To say that processes such as the Hering-Breuer reflex is a result of evolution is to fight against what is right before our eyes, if we can see things with even a little intelligence. Yes, belief in intelligent design is itself the practice of intelligent thinking.
Food for Thought from the Christian Bible
King David, worshipped the Lord for his wisdom that is so high that man cannot fully understand it. It's interesting to note that he made mention of the intelligent design that went into the creation of his body! We read that king David said, "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvellous are thy works..." (KJV, Psalm 139:14).
Let every thing that hath breath, praise the Lord.... (Psalm 150:6).
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