As a result of recent progress in brain imaging techniques, a number of studies have been able to identify anatomical correlates of various emotions (Pujol et al., 2013; Tettamanti et al., 2012; van der Zwaag et al., 2012). However, emotions are not solely a phenomenon within the brain-they are also composed of body responses. These include autonomic and behavioral responses, such as changes in heart rate, blood pressure, skin conductance, and respiration. Among these physiological responses, respiration has a unique relationship to emotion. While the primary role of respiration concerns metabolism and homeostasis, emotions such as disgust, anger, and happiness also influence respiratory activities (Boiten et al., 1994). While respiratory change that accompanies emotions can occur unconsciously, respiration can also be voluntarily altered associating with an activation of the motor cortex. There may be no physiological expression for the association between the three areas of the brain that regulate respiration: the brainstem, the limbic system, and the cerebral cortex. The brainstem works to maintain homeostasis, the limbic system is responsible for emotional processing, and the cerebral cortex controls intention. Investigating the interaction between these brain regions may lead to an explanation about why they are so widely dispersed in the brain, despite their common role in the regulation of respiration. In this chapter, we review our findings on breathing behavior and discuss the mechanisms underlying the relationship between emotion and respiration.
Keywords: amygdala; emotion; olfaction; respiration; the limbic system.
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