Generous volunteering from a student’s relative

This summer we have had Dan, a King’s medical student, working in the lab on a study examining how blood flow to the brain changes during periods of intense breathing effort.  His cousin, Tom, came into the lab on Friday to participate in Dan’s research.  Tom is an English teacher in north-west London, so we are hoping soon to welcome some students from his school to the blog (hello, if you’re reading this!).  Tom kindly allowed us to take a few photos and a video of him during the study.  Maryam and Asha from our student panel filmed another subject doing the same study recently, so we will have a video with a full explanation coming soon, but here you can still see some of the techniques.  On the left, Dan is inserting the tubes viaDSC_0299 Tom’s nostril into his stomach.  The tubes allow us to measure the pressure and electrical activity generated by the diaphragm when it contracts.  On the right, Tom is just starting the study – he is breathing from a chamber that is connected DSC_0300to a vacuum, meaning that his breathing muscles have to work harder to move air into his lungs.  The video shows Dan stimulating Tom’s phrenic nerves (the nerves that supply the diaphragm) with a pair of magnets – this allows us to measure how strong the diaphragm is, and how fatigued it has become after breathing against the vacuum.  You can see that his arms move with the stimulation too – this is because the nerves supplying the arm muscles are located in the same area as the phrenic nerves.  I don’t think any of us stop finding the ‘arm flailing’ funny…

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