Breaking News
June 20, 2018 - New approach could provide objective and easy-to-obtain measure of dietary adherence
June 20, 2018 - ‘Miracle treatment’ long-term success for babies with diabetes
June 20, 2018 - Rheumatoid Arthritis patients with depression have increased risk of disease flare
June 20, 2018 - NTU launches new research centers to prevent and treat diseases affecting Singaporeans
June 20, 2018 - Researchers examine risk factors for opioid dependence in patients undergoing surgery for DS
June 20, 2018 - Study finds substantial variation in cardiovascular risk across India
June 20, 2018 - Kidney donation among carefully-selected older adults poses minimal risks
June 20, 2018 - Effects of atrial fibrillation can be reduced or reversed by losing weight
June 20, 2018 - Allergan’s Oral CGRP Receptor Antagonist Atogepant Demonstrates Robust Efficacy and Safety in Episodic Migraine Prevention in a Phase 2b/3 Clinical Trial
June 20, 2018 - The novel insights of proteoglycans in mineralized tissues
June 20, 2018 - Scientists shed light on key aspect of healthy cell division
June 20, 2018 - Circulating bone turnover markers not linked to hip fracture risk, shows study
June 20, 2018 - Scientists obtain key information about proteins from single human cells
June 20, 2018 - Scientists identify novel genes linked with infantile forms of schizophrenia
June 20, 2018 - Low-dose aspirin could help pregnant women with high blood pressure avoid a dangerous condition
June 20, 2018 - Unusual gene provides novel insight into how the brain wires itself
June 20, 2018 - Study finds IV acetaminophen to be no more effective than oral counterpart for colectomy patients
June 20, 2018 - MAARA to celebrate its 50th anniversary with lecture titled ‘The Future of Asthma’
June 20, 2018 - Administration eases way for small businesses to buy insurance in bulk
June 20, 2018 - High-Quality Diet May Decrease Mortality Risk in Cancer Survivors
June 20, 2018 - JAMA editorial on ECG screening and cardiac risks
June 20, 2018 - Study hints at benefits of lifestyle interventions in reducing dementia risk
June 20, 2018 - Low blood levels of vitamin D linked to increased risk of interstitial lung disease
June 20, 2018 - Simple cognitive task after brain injury improves memory function, study finds
June 20, 2018 - Clinical trial targets metastatic colorectal cancer with new combination therapy
June 20, 2018 - Researchers discover pesticide-free way to limit mosquitoes and reduce spread of West Nile virus
June 20, 2018 - Persistent psychological stress contributes to development and progression of vision loss
June 20, 2018 - Study introduces novel strategy to obtain reasonable drug cost estimates for cost-effectiveness analyses
June 20, 2018 - Does Salt Water Help Your Cut? And Other Health Myths of Summer
June 20, 2018 - Scientists help identify genetic markers for prostate cancer in global DNA download
June 19, 2018 - Common ingredient in toothpaste and hand wash could contribute to antibiotic resistance
June 19, 2018 - WHO launches multiyear campaign to eliminate use of trans fat
June 19, 2018 - Scientists could build better drugs by learning from bacteria-derived molecules
June 19, 2018 - Comparative silence between firing spikes of neurons reveals what they are really up to
June 19, 2018 - JAK inhibitors associated with aggressive lymphoma
June 19, 2018 - SetPoint announces positive long-term results of bioelectronic medicine to treat rheumatoid arthritis
June 19, 2018 - Hypnosis may help reduce fear, anxiety in children undergoing treatment for cancer
June 19, 2018 - Scientists point to potentially promising treatment target for deadly brain cancers
June 19, 2018 - After opioid overdose, only 30 percent get medicine to treat addiction
June 19, 2018 - Patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease over age 65 continue to derive benefit from DBS-f treatment
June 19, 2018 - Microbiotica partners with University of Adelaide to develop defined bacterial product for ulcerative colitis
June 19, 2018 - Paratek Presents New Analysis from Combined Phase 3 Skin Infection Studies Highlighting Efficacy of Omadacycline in Treating Drug Resistant S. aureus
June 19, 2018 - Autism is not linked to eating fish in pregnacy
June 19, 2018 - Scientists create universal assembly method to enhance cancer therapy and diagnostics
June 19, 2018 - Follow-up study confirms success of physiological test for autism
June 19, 2018 - FDA provides guidance on Novus Therapeutics’ development path for OP-02 to treat otitis media
June 19, 2018 - Scientists discover new mechanism controlling multiple sclerosis risk
June 19, 2018 - Award granted to Neem Biotech to develop antimicrobial intervention for chronic lung infections
June 19, 2018 - Study finds combined risk of death and developing cancer to be lowest in light drinkers
June 19, 2018 - Novel app teaches users how to stop life-threatening bleeding and save lives
June 19, 2018 - Single blood sample can provide adequate confirmation of diabetes
June 19, 2018 - New stimulation method increases hope for improving disorders of consciousness
June 19, 2018 - FDA Issues Complete Response Letter for Duobrii (halobetasol propionate and tazarotene) Lotion
June 19, 2018 - Defining the biology of autism
June 19, 2018 - Researchers use optogenetics to shape tissues
June 19, 2018 - Scientists discover genetic causes underlying group of related infant cancers
June 19, 2018 - Innovative digital home testing kit benefits patients with kidney conditions
June 19, 2018 - New guidance on selection and evaluation of wearable devices for use in regulatory clinical trials
June 19, 2018 - Researchers understand the role of brain’s ‘reward circuit’ in autism spectrum disorder
June 19, 2018 - Researchers propose new strategy to combat micro-pollutants in water
June 19, 2018 - Illicit Opioid Trade Up With Restrictions on Hydrocodone
June 19, 2018 - New 3-D imaging analysis technique could lead to improved arthritis treatment
June 19, 2018 - Study finds increased risk of mortality in people with cold agglutinin disease in five years after diagnosis
June 19, 2018 - Psychologists can play important role in treating alcohol problems
June 19, 2018 - Study finds elevated risk of congenital defects in lithium-exposed infants
June 19, 2018 - Test-Taking Can Be Tough for Kids With Vision Problems
June 19, 2018 - Injections for knee osteoarthritis—’subtle but significant’ impact of revisions in clinical practice guidelines
June 19, 2018 - Researchers develop new approach to assess effectiveness of Men B vaccine
June 19, 2018 - Study shows link between financial literacy and hospitalization risk in older adults
June 19, 2018 - If you’ve got hep C, spitting can be a felony
June 19, 2018 - New study examines how the brain plays role in rheumatoid arthritis inflammation
June 19, 2018 - Researchers discover new defense mechanism against oxygen radicals
June 19, 2018 - WVU researcher aims to produce updated whooping cough vaccine
June 19, 2018 - Scientists develop novel computational framework to support personalized cancer treatment
June 19, 2018 - Rate of dementia on the decline—but beware of growing numbers
June 19, 2018 - Microglia play protective role in response to retinal detachment, shows study
June 19, 2018 - Technology breakthrough could enable detection of fetal genetic abnormalities in early pregnancy
June 19, 2018 - Novel chip can be used to identify rhinovirus strains as cause of asthma
June 19, 2018 - Effects of in vitro fertilization depend on genetic variation inherited from parents
June 19, 2018 - Heart attack patients unable to resume work report depression and financial hardship
The Yogi masters were right—meditation and breathing exercises can sharpen your mind

The Yogi masters were right—meditation and breathing exercises can sharpen your mind

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

It has long been claimed by Yogis and Buddhists that meditation and ancient breath-focused practices, such as pranayama, strengthen our ability to focus on tasks. A new study by researchers at Trinity College Dublin explains for the first time the neurophysiological link between breathing and attention.

Breath-focused meditation and yogic breathing practices have numerous known cognitive benefits, including increased ability to focus, decreased mind wandering, improved arousal levels, more positive emotions, decreased emotional reactivity, along with many others. To date, however, no direct neurophysiological link between respiration and cognition has been suggested.

The research shows for the first time that breathing—a key element of meditation and mindfulness practices—directly affects the levels of a natural chemical messenger in the brain called noradrenaline. This chemical messenger is released when we are challenged, curious, exercised, focused or emotionally aroused, and, if produced at the right levels, helps the brain grow new connections, like a brain fertiliser. The way we breathe, in other words, directly affects the chemistry of our brains in a way that can enhance our attention and improve our brain health.

The study, carried out by researchers at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity, found that participants who focused well while undertaking a task that demanded a lot of attention had greater synchronisation between their breathing patterns and their attention, than those who had poor focus. The authors believe that it may be possible to use breath-control practices to stabilise attention and boost brain health.

Michael Melnychuk, Ph.D. candidate at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity, and lead author of the study, explained: “Practitioners of yoga have claimed for some 2,500 years, that respiration influences the mind. In our study we looked for a neurophysiological link that could help explain these claims by measuring breathing, reaction time, and brain activity in a small area in the brainstem called the locus coeruleus, where noradrenaline is made. Noradrenaline is an all-purpose action system in the brain. When we are stressed we produce too much noradrenaline and we can’t focus. When we feel sluggish, we produce too little and again, we can’t focus. There is a sweet spot of noradrenaline in which our emotions, thinking and memory are much clearer.”

“This study has shown that as you breathe in locus coeruleus activity is increasing slightly, and as you breathe out it decreases. Put simply this means that our attention is influenced by our breath and that it rises and falls with the cycle of respiration. It is possible that by focusing on and regulating your breathing you can optimise your attention level and likewise, by focusing on your attention level, your breathing becomes more synchronised.”

The research provides deeper scientific understanding of the neurophysiological mechanisms which underlie ancient meditation practices. The findings were recently published in a paper entitled ‘Coupling of respiration and attention via the locus coeruleus: Effects of meditation and pranayama’ in the journal Psychophysiology. Further research could help with the development of non-pharmacological therapies for people with attention compromised conditions such as ADHD and traumatic brain injury and in supporting cognition in older people.

There are traditionally two types of breath-focused practices—those that emphasise focus on breathing (mindfulness), and those that require breathing to be controlled (deep breathing practices such as pranayama). In cases when a person’s attention is compromised, practices which emphasise concentration and focus, such as mindfulness, where the individual focuses on feeling the sensations of respiration but make no effort to control them, could possibly be most beneficial. In cases where a person’s level of arousal is the cause of poor attention, for example drowsiness while driving, a pounding heart during an exam, or during a panic attack, it should be possible to alter the level of arousal in the body by controlling breathing. Both of these techniques have been shown to be effective in both the short and the long term.

Ian Robertson, Co-Director of the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity and Principal Investigator of the study added: “Yogis and Buddhist practitioners have long considered the breath an especially suitable object for meditation. It is believed that by observing the breath, and regulating it in precise ways—a practice known as pranayama—changes in arousal, attention, and emotional control that can be of great benefit to the meditator are realised. Our research finds that there is evidence to support the view that there is a strong connection between breath-centred practices and a steadiness of mind.”

“Our findings could have particular implications for research into brain ageing. Brains typically lose mass as they age, but less so in the brains of long term meditators. More ‘youthful’ brains have a reduced risk of dementia and mindfulness meditation techniques actually strengthen brain networks. Our research offers one possible reason for this—using our breath to control one of the brain’s natural chemical messengers, noradrenaline, which in the right ‘dose’ helps the brain grow new connections between cells. This study provides one more reason for everyone to boost the health of their brain using a whole range of activities ranging from aerobic exercise to mindfulness meditation.”


Explore further:
How mindfulness helps you live in the moment

More information:
Michael Christopher Melnychuk et al. Coupling of respiration and attention via the locus coeruleus: Effects of meditation and pranayama, Psychophysiology (2018). DOI: 10.1111/psyp.13091

Provided by:
Trinity College Dublin

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles