Positive Pressure Breathing Discussion Essay

The mechanism of breathing is creating an air pressure gradient between the environment and lungs. Since gases always get transferred from high-pressure areas to low-pressure areas, air will flow down the pressure gradient. Animals like mammals and amphibians use this principle in different ways to transfer air to their lungs. Amphibians like frogs create high pressure in their mouth and this is known as positive pressure breathing. However, mammals utilize their diaphragm muscles to lower the pressure inside the lungs and this is known as negative pressure breathing. The results are the same in either way.

The major mechanism of respiration in amphibians is positive pressure breathing. They utilize this form of breathing to fill their lungs with air. The best and well-studied example is that of frogs. Like humans, frogs do not have a diaphragm or rib structure. They have sac-like lungs that are directly attached to the oral cavity. To fill the lungs with air, the frog initially fills air in the mouth by lowering the mouth floor. Air is pulled through nostrils. After this, the nostril closes, and the valve called a glottis connects the nostril and the mouth opens to let the air flow in.

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Since the buccal cavity is attached to the lungs, the mouth pushes air inside the lungs. To exhale, the same process takes place in reverse order, which means, it draws carbon dioxide-rich air from the lungs and pushes it into the buccal cavity to be released through the nostrils.

Respiration in Frog:
The frog is a well-studied example that respires in three mechanisms. The gas exchange can happen with its surroundings through the skin, lining of the mouth by creating a positive pressure, or through the lungs.

When it is completely submerged, the respiration takes place through the skin. The skin is made up of a thin tissue membrane that is permeable in water through which the respiratory gases diffuse according to their gradients.

Like the humans, the frog can also respire through the lungs by inhaling air through the nostrils and letting it down the lungs. But since it does not have ribs or diaphragm, the air is taken through by a positive pressure gradient. However, this is not the predominant form of breathing as the lungs of the adult frogs are not so well developed.

Positive pressure breathing vs Negative pressure breathing:
A frog respires by gulping air into its mouth. This then closes the nostrils and mouth and moves the bottom of the mouth upwards to create a small cavity. This results in an increase in pressure as the same quantity of the air occupies a low space now in the buccal cavity of the frog. The air then moves to the lungs of the frog that has low pressure. This movement is because air always moves from higher pressure to the lower pressure region. This entire mechanism is known as positive pressure breathing as the frog actively generates an increased or positive pressure higher than the pressure in the atmosphere in the buccal cavity to generate the air pressure gradient. Breathing out does not require energy and is known as passive breathing in frogs. The high elastic nature of the walls of the body helps to push the air outside of the lungs after the mouth is opened once again. A similar mechanism is followed for the breathing of mammals where a pressure gradient is created by the movement of the diaphragm and the rib structure up and outwards. This is by using intercostal muscles. Amphibians including the frog cannot use this mechanism as they do not have ribs. This results in the lungs to expand by decreasing the pressure of the air inside them as the same quantity of air now requires more space. The air then is transferred from the outside of the body that has high pressure to the inside of the lungs that has low pressure. The entire mechanism is like a suction pump. As the negative pressure that is less than the atmospheric pressure is formed in the lungs, this type of breathing is known as negative pressure breathing. However, the breathing here is passive too and does not require any energy. The muscles in the rib and diaphragm relaxes to let the air out of the lungs in a reverse manner. Reptiles and birds also utilize negative pressure breathing.

However, it is fascinating that humans can be trained to breathe like a frog by utilizing a positive pressure gradient. The breathing of a frog can be taught to humans who have an impaired muscle of the ribs and diaphragm such as in a polio attack or paralysis. This can let them breathe on their own instead of a mechanical ventilation system. However, frogs cannot be taught to breathe as humans do. They breathe in two ways, bimodal breathers where about 50 % of gas exchange occurs via the skin, and as tadpoles and larvae, they have gills as a respiratory organ through which they breathe underwater.

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