The respiration control centre is located in the medulla oblongata and in some structures of the pons. These nerve centres control the contractions of the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles therefore regulating respiration.
There are three areas in the medulla oblongata and pons that regulate respiration (Fig. 16):
- the ventral respiration group (VRG, located in the medulla oblongata)
- the dorsal respiration group (DRG, located in the medulla oblongata)
- the pontine centres (located in the pons)
It is the VRG that regulate inspiration. Here neurons send rhythmic nerve impulses that cause contraction of the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles at regular intervals – every time you inhale.
DRG regulates VRG. DRG receives impulses from stretch and chemo receptors in blood vessels, muscles and lung tissue. DRG can then, through regulating VRG, adjust how often and how deeply to breathe.
The pontine centres adjust respiration so that it is smooth and not staccato.