Breaking News
August 16, 2018 - Seven activities that prevent you from getting quality sleep during summer
August 16, 2018 - Five ways to tell if your baby is getting enough milk from breastfeeding
August 16, 2018 - From Pigs to Peacocks, What’s Up With Those ‘Emotional-Support Animals’?
August 16, 2018 - Breast cancers enlist the help of normal cells to help them spread and survive
August 16, 2018 - Engaging with “high-need” patients outside the clinic
August 16, 2018 - Research illuminates how online forum may offer suicide prevention support for males
August 16, 2018 - Researchers identify way to grow immune cells at large scale for preventing cancer reoccurrence
August 15, 2018 - Keck Medicine of USC’s hospitals ranked among nation’s best for the 10th consecutive year
August 15, 2018 - Researchers compare existing approaches for automating diagnostic procedures of skin lesions
August 15, 2018 - Autism risk determined by health of mom’s gut, research reveals
August 15, 2018 - WELL for Life challenges you to explore the great outdoors
August 15, 2018 - ‘Zombie’ gene protects elephants from cancer, study finds
August 15, 2018 - Ebola outbreak in Congo spreads to active combat zone
August 15, 2018 - Study highlights pollution exposure of babies in prams
August 15, 2018 - Study provides insight into link between sleep apnea and lipid metabolism
August 15, 2018 - New study focuses on promise of gene therapy for Amish nemaline myopathy
August 15, 2018 - Researchers discover new approach to alleviate chronic itch
August 15, 2018 - Uncovering the Mysteries of MS: Medical Imaging Helps NIH Researchers Understand the Tricky Disease
August 15, 2018 - Autistic people at greater risk of becoming homeless – new research
August 15, 2018 - New imaging technique can spot tuberculosis infection in an hour
August 15, 2018 - Scientists study effects of eating breakfast versus fasting overnight before exercise
August 15, 2018 - Talking with children about suicide could save lives
August 15, 2018 - Grip strength of children predicts future cardiometabolic health
August 15, 2018 - Innovative oncofertility program launched by RMA of New York and Mount Sinai Health System
August 15, 2018 - Simple score helps predict which hospitalized heart attack patients are at high risk of readmissions
August 15, 2018 - New discoveries show how protein droplets do more than keep cells’ interiors tidy
August 15, 2018 - Study shows impact of optimizing airport flight patterns on human health
August 15, 2018 - Life experiences of feeling unwanted or unplanned associated with attachment insecurity
August 15, 2018 - ACS Briefing Discusses Use of Lessons From Combat Care
August 15, 2018 - Study identifies distinct origin of ADHD in children with history of brain injury
August 15, 2018 - IgG3 antibody stops B cells from fighting pathogens in HIV patients
August 15, 2018 - Scientists discover key vulnerability of mixed lineage leukemia
August 15, 2018 - College students may experience pressures from secondary exposure to opioid abuse
August 15, 2018 - Powerful new microscope reveals inner workings of human cells with unprecedented clarity
August 15, 2018 - Married people who fight nastily more likely to suffer from leaky guts, study suggests
August 15, 2018 - Working Out After Baby – Drugs.com MedNews
August 15, 2018 - Rheumatoid Factor (RF) Test: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information
August 15, 2018 - ADHD linked to an increased risk of injury in children, study finds
August 15, 2018 - UIC researchers receive NIH funding to develop a better way to regenerate bone or tissues
August 15, 2018 - Study reveals how immune cells in the brain influence sexual behavior
August 15, 2018 - Researchers move closer to finding potential soft spot in drug-resistant tuberculosis
August 15, 2018 - Real-time dynamic monitoring of cell’s nucleus for effective cancer screening
August 15, 2018 - Lower rates of Medicare preventive care visits found in racial, ethnic minority older adults
August 15, 2018 - Scientists identify stress hormone as key factor in failure of immune system to inhibit leukemia
August 15, 2018 - Cytoplan introduces three new nutritional supplements
August 15, 2018 - Effective hemorrhage control critical for survival after motorsport accidents
August 15, 2018 - Sygnature Discovery announces ambitious expansion plan with addition of Alderley Park facility
August 15, 2018 - Dietary carbohydrates could lead to osteoarthritis, new study finds
August 15, 2018 - Male tobacco smokers have decreased number of cannabinoid CB1 receptors, study reveals
August 15, 2018 - Scientists explore ways for drug therapies to reach deadly brain tumors
August 15, 2018 - Rethinking fundamental rule of stroke care: ‘Time is brain!’
August 15, 2018 - Scientists reveal role of ‘junk DNA’ in cancer dissemination
August 15, 2018 - Google’s DeepMind AI could soon be diagnosing eye conditions
August 15, 2018 - Scientists trick the brain to embody the prosthetic limb
August 15, 2018 - Researchers focus on uncoupling obesity from diabetes
August 15, 2018 - Clinical study shows how EarlySense system effectively detects opioid-induced respiratory depression
August 15, 2018 - A class of proteins shown to be effective in reducing drug-seeking behaviors
August 15, 2018 - FundamentalVR launches first-of-its-kind SaaS software platform for surgical simulation
August 15, 2018 - Gemphire Announces Termination of Phase 2a Clinical Trial of Gemcabene in Pediatric NAFLD
August 15, 2018 - Rheumatoid arthritis in pregnancy associated with low birth weight and premature birth
August 15, 2018 - Study may help increase effectiveness of antibiotics against drug-resistant bacteria
August 15, 2018 - Analyzing resident-to-resident incidents in dementia may hold the key to reducing future fatalities
August 15, 2018 - Robotic walking frame aims to help maintain mobility of older adults
August 15, 2018 - Simple intervention during routine care reduces alcohol consumption in men with HIV
August 15, 2018 - Genetics Home Reference: gout
August 15, 2018 - Scientists ID genesis of disease, focus efforts on shape-shifting tau
August 15, 2018 - OncoThira and NDSU enter into license agreement to develop, market cancer compounds
August 15, 2018 - Scientists unravel the mystery behind ovarian cancer with high-grade serous carcinoma
August 15, 2018 - Common signs that indicate vision problems in children
August 15, 2018 - Removing the cancer label – overhaul in cancer classification proposed
August 15, 2018 - Prams may expose babies and toddlers to more air pollution finds study
August 15, 2018 - Duke researchers track missing T-cells in glioblastoma patients
August 15, 2018 - Cardiac Profiles Up With Exercise, Less Sitting in Early Old Age
August 15, 2018 - Precision medicine offers a glimmer of hope for Alzheimer’s disease
August 15, 2018 - Immunovia’s new blood-based testing platform accurately detects non-small cell lung cancer
August 15, 2018 - New method provides a ‘big picture’ of genetic influences on traits and diseases
August 15, 2018 - Early Onset Type 1 Diabetes Linked to Heart Disease, Shorter Life
August 14, 2018 - SMURF1 provides targeted approach to preventing cocaine addiction relapse
August 14, 2018 - Genetic testing pushed for hereditary high cholesterol disease
August 14, 2018 - Researchers discover new genes involved in Alzheimer’s Disease
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