Automatic body functions such as breathing. Is it just some biological code loop running in the background of our operating system or is each breath still being requested separately by a subconscious bit of your brain?

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Automatic body functions such as breathing. Is it just some biological code loop running in the background of our operating system or is each breath still being requested separately by a subconscious bit of your brain?

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Basically, yeah. Thats not a bad metaphor. It’s just a loop that always listens and you can take over at will. It’s a loop that listens and shuts down when activated and resumes when forgotten

Mostly the first one.

I learned something cool when I was being fitted for my powered filter mask. A huge part of the reason people hate wearing regular masks is that it takes an autonomous function and makes us experience all the silent inputs.

With a regular mask we instantly become hyper aware of things like breathing rate, breath speed and timing (ex. 3 second inhale, .5 second pause, 1 second exhale, 1 second pause…), How deeply to breath in, how completely to breath out. All of that is computed autonomously.

Once a mask goes on we start conciously breathing and our concious mind isn’t as good at it. So we fail on the side of caution and end up breathing deeper and faster than needed. A funny conundrum because the feeling of hyperventilation is what most people describe as “I can’t breath with a mask on” so we breath harder or faster.

Long story-short, a lot of hidden sensory input and basic math is being done behind the scene for every breath.

Managed by the nervous system, not really a brain function. When YOU control thr breaths, then the brain takes over.

But yeah, you could consider it a looped program in the background.

Other autonomous functions. Heartbeat, digestion, healing, etc.

You can have you brain blown apart by a gunshot but your body can still have basic functions like breathing. It is a hardwired part of your brain stem.

Each breath is requested by the brain. If you get really really drunk you can actually forget to breathe.

Think a good way to think of it is a habit loop that has become autonomous through evolution. Once you consciously think about breathing you interfere with the loop which is why you don’t have to remind yourself to inhale and exhale.
The power of habit by Charles duhigg has an interesting background on those behaviours and why we do them.

Since you are using the code metaphor I will try to work with that. Much of your brain is not a “real time operating system”. The complexities of driving certain critical bits of hardware are given over to specialised parts of the brain, which you can think of as controller cards with their own dedicated (real time) firmware.

The controller card for breathing, heart rate and blood pressure is the medulla oblongata. This thing is almost not part of your brain, in that it sits at the top of your spinal cord.

There is a condition (Anencephaly) where infants are born missing all or some of their brain, but the body can (in some circumstances) continue to breathe due to just the presence of the medulla oblongata.

What’s the difference?