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A sigh's not just a sigh. It's a fundamental life-sustaining reflex.

Stashed in: Brain, Awesome, Biology, Breathe., Pitch Perfect!

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“Unlike a pacemaker that regulates only how fast we breathe, the brain’s breathing centre also controls the type of breath we take,” said Mark Krasnow, a biochemist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and one of the authors.

“It’s made up of small numbers of different kinds of neurons. Each functions like a button that turns on a different type of breath. One button programmes regular breaths, another sighs, and the others could be for yawns, sniffs, coughs and maybe even laughs and cries.”

The research illuminates a puzzle about ventilation for patients with injuries or chronic lung disease: unless clinicians get the mechanical breathing rates exactly right, the patient is at risk of further injury. The new study delivers a better understanding of why a sigh – in effect an extra breath for an already inflated lung – is an important survival mechanism. The surprise lies in its simplicity.

“Sighing appears to be regulated by the fewest numbers of neurons we have seen linked to fundamental human behaviour,” said Prof Jack Feldman, a neurobiologist at University College Los Angeles and another author. “One of the holy grails in neuroscience is figuring out how the brain controls behavior. Our finding gives us insights into mechanisms that may underlie much more complex behaviours.”

So a sigh is a way to get oxygen to the brain when normal breathing is not happening?

What does a sigh mean? Shortness of breath due to a situation we're not happy dealing with?

The psychology of a sigh:

In general, the experimenters noted that sighs are associated with a negative mood—a sign of disappointment, defeat, frustration, boredom, and longing. Not too surprising. In addition, the students reported that they sigh in public roughly as often as they do in private, suggesting that it may not be a form of communication, per se.

The physiology of a sigh:

The researchers also found that breathing in the same state for too long can cause the lungs to stiffen and exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide less efficiently. So your body will occasionally throw in a good long sigh to loosen the lungs' air sacs and relieve the diaphragm and other respiratory muscles.

So a sigh CAN be positive as it opens up the lungs' air sacs?

I saw the sigh. And it opened up my eyes!

I get the reference!

But my favorite rendition:

That favorite rendition is wonderful!

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