11 months ago
The connection between stress relief and certain activities like yoga or meditation is well documented. But scientists have had trouble figuring out just why it works—until now.
Previously the pace of the breathing was believed to be an integral part. But a recent study, published in Science, documents the impact of the brain’s so-called “breathing center,” a cluster of nerves in the brainstem that tie respiration with the range of human emotion.
The findings suggested the neurons actually controlled the breathing rhythm by connecting with parts of the brain that deal with stress, attention, and alertness.
Lead author Kevin Yackle, Ph.D., a physiologist at University of California-San Francisco, told Inverse “We think that, if you were hyperventilating, these neurons would be more active, and then they would activate this other brain center more, which would then cause more arousal. And then the opposite, if you had slow breathing, you have less activation in the center, which would lead to more calmness.”
The “breathing center” isn’t a new discovery, but how it interacts with other neurological components is. The study shows how powerful that nerve center is and how we can override it with slow, controlled breaths.