BREATHE & THE BRAIN: Waves of Consciousness

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Breathing & the Brain

Waves of Consciousness

"...breathing does not merely supply oxygen to the brain and body, but may also organise the activity of populations of cells within multiple brain regions to help orchestrate complex behaviours...

In this new study, a research team led by Christina Zelano recorded electrical activity directly from the surface of the brain in seven patients being evaluated for surgery to treat drug-resistant temporal lobe epilepsy, focusing on three brain regions: the piriform cortex, which processes smell information from the olfactory bulbs, the hippocampus, which is critical for memory formation, and the amygdala, which plays an important role in emotional processing. At the same time, they monitored the patients’ respiratory rates with either pressure sensors or an abdominal breathing belt. 

The researchers found that slow brain wave oscillations in the piriform cortex, and higher frequency brain waves in the hippocampus and amygdala, were synchronised with the rate of natural, spontaneous breathing. Importantly, though, the brain wave oscillations in all three regions were most highly synchronised immediately after the patients breathed in, but less so while they were breathing out. And when the patients were asked to divert breathing to their mouths, the researchers observed a significant decrease in brain wave coupling.

Thus, the air plumes that periodically enter the nose during natural breathing appear to synchronise the activity of neurons in the piriform cortex, and this synchrony is then propagated to the hippocampus and amygdala. 

Given the well established respective roles of the hippocampus and amygdala in memory and emotions, the researchers conducted a series of behavioural tests to investigate whether breathing phase might influence thought processes...

Breathing is controlled unconsciously by the brainstem, and humans alter their breathing pattern in response to emotional stimuli and mental effort, suggesting that our thought processes affect the rate of breathing. These new findings suggest that breathing can also impact our mental function. For example, breathing rapidly when we are scared or highly aroused may optimise information processing in the brain so that we can think and act appropriately and quickly. 

“When you breathe in… you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus,” says Zelano. “In a panic state, your breathing rhythm becomes faster [and] as a result you’ll spend proportionally more time inhaling,” [This] could have a positive impact on brain function and result in faster response times to dangerous stimuli in the environment.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: 

  • INTENTIONAL BREATHING IMPACTS MENTAL FUNCTION

WHAT TO DO:

  • EXPERIMENT WITH YOURSELF. SEE IF YOU CAN BECOME AWARE OF YOUR BREATHE IN RELATION TO EMOTIONAL STIMULI.

  • WHEN YOU BEGIN TO FEEL EMOTIONAL - CHECK IN WITH YOUR BREATHE - SEE WHAT YOUR NATURAL RESPIRATORY RESPONSE IS TO THIS EMOTION.

  • OVERTIME, DO YOU RECOGNIZE ANY BREATHING PATTERNS IN CORRELATION TO EMOTIONAL STIMULATIONS?

WHAT TO TRY:

  • SEE IF YOU CAN BREATHE DEEPLY THROUGH YOUR NOSE, SUSPEND THE BREATHE AND FULLY EXHALE. DO THIS AT LEAST 3 TIMES. THEN CHECK BACK IN WITH YOUR BODY, THOUGHTS AND EMOTIONS.

  • BREATHE OF FIRE 30 SECONDS TO 3 MINUTES: IN A COMFORTABLE AND STABLE SEATED POSITION WITH STRAIGHT SPINE, HANDS ON THE KNEES WITH PALMS FACING UP - INDEX AND THUMB TOUCHING, BEGIN AN EQUAL INHALE AND EXHALE THROUGH THE NOSE WITH A PUMPING OF THE NAVEL. AS YOU BECOME FAMILIAR WITH THIS MOVEMENT PAIRED WITH BREATHE BEGIN TO INCREASE YOUR PACE KEEPING THE INHALE AND EXHALE EQUAL. MAKE SURE THE BREATHE IS ALWAYS REACHING DEEP DOWN INTO THE BELLY AND NOT SHALLOW IN THE CHEST. ***2 or 3 times per second. When perfected, the rate should be 120 to 180 times per minute. WHEN YOUR TIME IS UP TAKE A DEEP BREATHE IN - HOLD FOR 10 SECONDS AND RELAX BACK TO YOUR NORMAL BREATHING. SIT FOR ANOTHER MINUTE OBSERVING AND NOTICING ANY PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL AND/OR ENERGETIC SHIFTS.

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/neurophilosophy/2016/dec/23/breathing-modulates-brain-activity-and-mental-function

http://www.jneurosci.org/content/36/49/12448

Image: Pinterest

Disclaimer: DO NOT attempt Breathe of Fire if pregnant or on the first 3 days of your moon cycle. The breathing exercise information provided here is of a general nature and can not be substituted for the advice provided by a medical doctor. Always do the breathing exercises in a safe environment (e.g. sitting on a couch/floor) and unforced. Never practice the breathing exercises before or during driving, swimming, taking a bath or any other environment/place where fainting poses a danger. The breathing exercises have a profound effect and should be practiced in the way it is explained.