Take Deep Breaths, Keep Calm
Relax. Take a deep breath. This advice can certainly be hard to follow in stressful situations. But now, researchers at Stanford University have discovered how deep breathing helps us stay calm. In the process, they have also learned more about the links between our breathing, our thinking, our behavior, and our feelings.
Breathing is usually constant and rhythmic—like our heart beat—but we can alter it—by holding our breath, exercising, and even sighing, gasping, or yawning, for example. Scientists discovered a bundle of about 3,000 neurons inside the brainstem that controls breathing—the breathing pacemaker—more than 25 years ago, but just how the mind and body regulate breathing and breathing affects the mind and body are still not well understood.
In this recent study, researchers identified approximately 65 different types of neurons in the breathing pacemaker—each with a unique role in regulating breathing. By disabling certain neurons in animal test subjects, they were able to control the animal’s breathing—keeping it calm even in stressful situations, such as being placed in an unfamiliar environment.
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