20 Apr Science Illuminates Why Slow Breathing Calms The Mind
By Alice G. Walton
People have been learning to control their breath for a long time—it’s been a method of calming the mind in yoga and meditation for millennia, and it’s used today in medical and psychiatric settings to help quell anxiety, and even curb panic. Now, a study in mice homes in on the brain mechanisms that underlie the calming effect of slow breathing. So even if you don’t quite understand or believe in the power of breathwork to calm you, it will very likely benefit your brain anyway.
There’s a small group of neurons in the brainstem, which link breathing to various states—anxiety, excitement, relaxation and attention—and is known as the respiratory pacemaker. It’s known to exist in both mice and humans.
“The respiratory pacemaker has, in some respects, a tougher job than its counterpart in the heart,” said study author Mark Krasnow in a news release. “Unlike the heart’s one-dimensional, slow-to-fast continuum, there are many distinct types of breaths: regular, excited, sighing, yawning, gasping, sleeping, laughing, sobbing. We wondered if different subtypes of neurons within the respiratory control center might be in charge of generating these different types of breath.”
Read the rest of the story at Forbes.