Science may have finally figured out why breathing slowly is such a well-known trick to calm you down.
Researchers led by Mark Krasnow, a professor of biochemistry at Stanford University, found that in mice, a group of nerves in the brain that regulates breathing has a direct connection to the arousal center of the brain.
There is a small patch of neurons in our brains that keep track on how we are breathing. Not only do these neurons keep track but they relay this data to another part of the brain which is responsible for our state of mind.
When these neurons were killed in mice they became far more relaxed and reduced their state of alertness.
Research done in the 90s found a region of around 3,000 neurons buried in the brain stem that seem to link breathing with one’s state of mind. They dubbed this the “breathing pacemaker”.
A team of the latest study decided to see what genes seem to be preferentially active. They homed in on 175 neurons in the breathing pacemaker and, to see what they did, they inactivatedthese neurons in mice.
Once the researchers inactivated these neurons the effect it had in the mice were;
They appeared to be mellow.
They began grooming.
Rather than sniffing around and exploring their cage they became very relaxed
Their breathing became slow and controlled.
They also noted similarities between the behavior of these mice and people who have lost function arousal part of their brain that induces alertness and panic.
Researchers believe that without the neurons, the arousal center doesn’t get data from the breathing pacemaker, and so the brain does not become alert
“This liaison to the rest of the brain means that if we can slow breathing down, as we can do by deep breathing or slow controlled breaths, the idea would be that these neurons then don’t signal the arousal center, and don’t hyperactivate the brain. So you can calm your breathing and also calm your mind,” says Krasnow.
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