Stanford Study Reveals Slow And Deep Breathing Tells The Body To Relax


Deep breathing exercises have been used to calm down individuals for hundreds of years. Though it is known for being effective especially in fits of panic attacks, it is not known how it actually works. A recent experiment by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine provided answers that eluded man for so long.

According to Daily Mail, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that mice became more peaceful and seem to be in a state of bliss after their respiration rate was slowed down. Apparently, the researchers discovered the answer by accident after disabling certain neurons in the mice brain, which directly controls breathing.

Changes in the animal were apparent a few days later. They noticed mice, which were taking slower breaths, were calmer than those who are taking fast, active breaths. Lead author Dr. Kevin Yackle, a Stanford graduate and currently a fellow at the University of California in San Francisco, stated that when the mice are placed in an environment that encourages a lot of exploration and sniffing, the mice remained stationary and just proceeded to groom themselves.

Shifting breath to a meditative one, called pranayama is a core component in yoga. Medical practitioners would sometimes prescribe breathing control exercises for people under stress. According to the study's senior author, Mark Krasnow, MD, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry, they find the study intriguing for they have been provided a cellular and molecular understanding of how breathing to relax work.

Study co-author, Jack Feldman, Ph.D., a professor of neurobiology at UCLA, discovered a tiny cluster of neurons that links respiration to relaxation, attention, excitement and anxiety located deep in the mice brainstem. He published his findings in 1991, since then, an equivalent structure has been identified in humans.

Accordingly, this area of the brain is also responsible for waking us up and keeping us alert. They deduced that it is likely to be a reason why people feel calmer when taking slower breaths. Even Vogue calls breathing, the "New Yoga."

Although deep breathing is an easy and safe method to put anxiety and stress in check, Dr. Yackle envisions a potential in developing medicines that can target these genes. A pharmacological approach may be administered to patients who have difficulty controlling breath in chronic panic attacks that are usually triggered by hyperventilation, Live Science reported.

The paper describing the work is published in the journal Science.

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