Health Implications of Sighing Discovered

April 2, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. pinpoint /ˈpɪnˌpɔɪnt/ (v.) – to identify the exact location of something
Example: Scientists have successfully pinpointed the region of the brain that controls breathing.

2. relieved /rɪˈlivd/ (adj.) – feeling happy after being eased from pain, worry, or any negative emotional state
Example: I felt relieved when she said she was safe.

3. involuntary /ɪnˈvɒl ənˌtɛr i/ (adj.) – not controlled by will or choice
Example: Yawning is involuntary.

4. induce /ɪnˈdus/ (v.) – to produce or cause something to happen
Example: Dust can induce an asthma attack.

5. inflate /ɪnˈfleɪt/ (v.) – to fill something with air to make it larger
Example: An air pump is used to inflate the deflated basketball.


Read the text below.
Scientists have been able to pinpoint the part of the brain that controls sighing.

While people usually sigh or exhale loudly when feeling sad, tired, or even relieved, the type of sigh that the study looked at is not related to emotions. The sigh that the scientists studied is defined as an involuntary intake of air that is about twice as much the normal amount that a person inhales.

In the study, scientists from Stanford University and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have located brain cells which produce a chemical that can induce sighing. These cells are connected to the brain region responsible for controlling breathing. When the brain cells send some of the chemicals they produce to the region that controls breathing, a sigh is made.

In previous studies, it has been found that this type of sigh plays an important role in keeping our lungs functioning properly. By making us inhale more air than usual, sighing re-inflates the alveoli [al-VEE-uh-lahy], which are balloon-like structures in the lungs where our blood receives oxygen.

The findings of the study may help in developing treatments for people who have trouble with breathing deeply or those who sigh too much. Excessive sighing may be a symptom of some health issues, like a hormonal problem called adrenal dysfunction. It may also be a sign of experiencing too much anxiety.

Meanwhile, according to one of the senior authors of the study, the function of sighs related to emotional states is not yet clear. However, future studies may look at the connection between the current findings and emotions to discover other functions of sighs.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think it is important to find out which region of the brain controls a certain behavior? Why or why not?
·         How do you think this type of research can change the way people look at health?

Discussion B
·         What is the importance of gaining knowledge about a person’s emotional states?
·         Which is more important to research on: physical health or mental health? Why?

April 2, 2016