Take a deep breath, and now breathe out slowly. From yoga to stress relief, this is a well-worn trick to assist calm you down, simply because most of the time it genuinely runs. Now, science may have finally figured out why.
It turns out that there is a small patch of neurons in your brain that maintains tabs on how youre breathing, and then relays this data to another part of thebrain responsible for your state of mind. Researchers found that if these neurons were killed in mice, the rodents became far more relaxed and had a reduced sense of alertness.
Research in the 90 s had already find a region of around 3,000 neurons buried in the brain stem that seemed to linkbreathing with one’sstate of mind, dubbed the breathing pacemaker. But how it actually ran was still little understood.
To try and pin this down, the team ofthe latest study published in Science decided to see what genes seem to be preferentially active in this region. They homed in on 175 neurons in the breathing pacemaker and, to insure what they did, theyinactivatedthese neurons in mice.
At first nothing happened, and the team thought they had failed. But then they started to notice something. There was a change in these animals, co-author Mark Krasnow told NPR. “They had become chill. Mellow fellows.
Rather than sniffing around and exploring their enclosure, the mice were relaxing and grooming. There was a shift in their breathing too, as it becameslow and controlled.
In fact, they noted similarities between the behavior ofthese mouse and people who have lost function in the arousal part of their brain that induces alertness and panic. This induced them wonder whether or not the 175 nervesacted as a go-between for the breathing pacemaker and the one of the purposes of the brain responsible for state of mind.
They believing that without the neurons, the arousal centre doesn’tget data from the breathing pacemaker, and so the brain does not becomealert. This meansthe breathing remained slow because the breathing pacemaker was get no panic signals from the arousal center.The squad have dubbed these 175 nuerons”pranayama neurons” after the practice of regulating one’s breath.
Althoguh more work is needed, it’s possible this physical link between breathing and state of mind iscritical in stress and emotion. Yoga and meditation have relied on this notion for thousands of years, and now researchers want to see if what is true for miceisalso true for us.