Ventricle: Function & Anatomy

Instructor: Jennifer Szymanski

Jen has taught biology and related fields to students from Kindergarten to University. She has a Master's Degree in Physiology.

In this lesson, we'll discuss the chambers of the heart that really drive blood flow - the ventricles. Where are they? What do they do? And what happens when something goes wrong with them?

Atria and Ventricles

At first glance, learning how blood moves through the heart and the body can look pretty intimidating. Atria? Ventricles? It's really not as difficult as it seems, though - all you need to do is to keep up with the flow. In this lesson, we're going to focus on the lower chambers of the heart, known as the ventricles - where they are and what they do.

Fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals have hearts made of more than one chamber. Chambers called atria, function by receiving blood from the body and pushing it to the ventricles, the lower chambers of the heart (it might help you to think of atria as the 'priming' chambers.) The ventricles are the 'pumping' chambers. Of the heart's chambers, they're the ones that do the harder work because they push blood out into the body.

Ventricles in the Human Heart: Where Are They and What Do They Do?

Diagram of the human heart in cross section. The ventricles are the two lower chambers of the heart.
Diagram of Heart Anatomy

The ventricles are the two chambers that make up the bottom of the heart. They have a wall of tissue that divides them called a septum. They look different from the atria, as they are larger and have a thicker wall of muscle, especially the left ventricle. Let's look at why this added muscle is necessary in context of blood flowing through the heart.

Blood enters the heart through the right atrium. Since this blood is returning to the heart having deposited its oxygen after a trip through the body, we call it deoxygenated. The right ventricle pumps the blood out of the heart to the lungs through the pulmonary artery (remember, arteries always take blood away from the heart). Here, the blood picks up oxygen, then returns to the left atrium through the pulmonary vein. The left atrium 'primes' the left ventricle, filling it with oxygen-rich blood. The left ventricle pushes this oxygenated blood out of the heart and to the rest of the body. This is why it has the thickest wall of muscle of all the heart's chambers - it has to overcome the greatest resistance.

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