For centuries, people have slowed down his breathing to calm their minds. For some of us, this takes the form of meditation or yoga; for others, it’s 10 deep breaths before a panic attack is what helps you to stay in “peace”.
Regardless of the name you put, there is now scientific evidence that supports the fact that our breathing induces a feeling of tranquility – even though no one has been able to figure out exactly how this happens. Now, researchers believe they may have finally found the answer, pointing to a small group of neurons in the stems of the brain that connect the breath with feelings of calm. *The research until now is limited to mice – scientists are yet to replicate the results in humans.
But the brain of the mouse has many similarities with the human brain, so it is a good starting point that could begin to explain at the physical level how practices such as meditation and pranayama yoga can bring feelings of calm and euphoria.
“This study is intriguing because it provides an understanding of the cellular and molecular level of how this could work”, explained the lead researcher , Mark Krasnow of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Stanford.
The group of cells in question belongs to the complex , pre-Bötzinger, an area of neurons deep within the brain stem that is known to be triggered every time that we inhale or exhale, such as a pacemaker of respiration.
Last year, Krasnow and his team found evidence that a small group of neurons within this complex, pre-Bötzinger that they were the only ones responsible for generating sighs, without them, the mice never aspired, and when they were simulated, the animals could not stop sigh.
In this last article, they found a separate group of neurons in the complex that have a more zen – that appear to regulate states of calm and excitement in response to our breathing.