It is increasingly being recognized that active control of breathing - a key aspect of ancient Vedic meditative practices, can relieve stress and anxiety and improve cognition. However, the underlying mechanisms of respiratory modulation of neurophysiology are just beginning to be elucidated. Research shows that brainstem circuits involved in the motor control of respiration receive input from and can directly modulate activity in subcortical circuits, affecting emotion and arousal. Meanwhile, brain regions involved in the sensory aspects of respiration, such as the olfactory bulb, are like-wise linked with wide-spread brain oscillations; and perturbing olfactory bulb activity can significantly affect both mood and cognition. Thus, via both motor and sensory pathways, there are clear mechanisms by which brain activity is entrained to the respiratory cycle. Here, we review evidence gathered across multiple species demonstrating the links between respiration, entrainment of brain activity and functional relevance for affecting mood and cognition. We also discuss further linkages with cardiac rhythms, and the potential translational implications for biorhythm monitoring and regulation in neuropsychiatric disorders.
Keywords: Brainstem; Cardiac rhythm; Meditation; Olfactory bulb; Respiration; Top-down control.
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Nasal Respiration Entrains Human Limbic Oscillations and Modulates Cognitive FunctionC Zelano et al. J Neurosci 36 (49), 12448-12467. PMID 27927961.Animal studies have long shown that olfactory oscillatory activity emerges in line with the natural rhythm of breathing, even in the absence of an odor stimulus. Whether …
The Rhythm of Memory: How Breathing Shapes Memory FunctionDH Heck et al. J Neurophysiol 122 (2), 563-571. PMID 31215344.The mammalian olfactory bulb displays a prominent respiratory rhythm, which is linked to the sniff cycle and is driven by sensory input from olfactory receptors in the na …
A Respiration-Coupled Rhythm in the Rat Hippocampus Independent of Theta and Slow OscillationsAL Lockmann et al. J Neurosci 36 (19), 5338-52. PMID 27170130.The rat hippocampus exhibits a large-amplitude slow oscillation (<1.5 Hz) during deep sleep and anesthesia. It is currently debated whether this rhythm reflects intern …
The Neural Mechanisms of Meditative Practices: Novel Approaches for Healthy AgingBP Acevedo et al. Curr Behav Neurosci Rep 3 (4), 328-339. PMID 27909646. - ReviewThis review suggests that mind-body practices can target different brain systems that are involved in the regulation of attention, emotional control, mood, and executive …
Breathing Rhythms and EmotionsI Homma et al. Exp Physiol 93 (9), 1011-21. PMID 18487316. - ReviewRespiration is primarily regulated for metabolic and homeostatic purposes in the brainstem. However, breathing can also change in response to changes in emotions, such as …