Breaking News
October 23, 2018 - Spectrum Pharmaceuticals Announces Release of Updated Poziotinib Data From MD Anderson Phase 2 Study in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Patients
October 23, 2018 - Cancer stem cells use ‘normal’ genes in abnormal ways
October 23, 2018 - Bad Blood: A conversation with investigative reporter John Carreyrou | News Center
October 23, 2018 - As U.S. fertility rates collapse, finger-pointing and blame follow
October 23, 2018 - Researchers develop promising targeted strategy to treat chemo-resistant blood cancer
October 23, 2018 - Pilot clinical trial shows effectiveness of bioelectronic medicine device for lupus
October 23, 2018 - Genentech’s combination therapy improves outcome in patients with non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer
October 23, 2018 - 11th World Stroke Congress examines high stroke impact in low- and middle-income countries
October 22, 2018 - Breast cancer survival could be extended with two new drug combinations
October 22, 2018 - Researchers discover how acne-causing bacteria resist treatment
October 22, 2018 - Cancer trial shows treating the prostate with radiotherapy improves survival
October 22, 2018 - New hope for a drug to treat lymphedema symptoms
October 22, 2018 - Immune-Based Treatment Helps Fight Aggressive Breast Cancer, Study Finds
October 22, 2018 - Takeda announces positive Phase 3 ALTA-1L data in first-line therapy for advanced ALK+ NSCLC
October 22, 2018 - Paternal exercise has significant impact on child’s lifelong metabolic health
October 22, 2018 - Targeting specific genomic mutation in breast cancer improves survival
October 22, 2018 - Loss of tumor protein p53 helps cancer cells grow in hostile environment
October 22, 2018 - IDT to demonstrate CRISPR expertise at European-focused events
October 22, 2018 - Breathing through the nose improves memory consolidation
October 22, 2018 - Recreational Marijuana Now Legal in Canada
October 22, 2018 - Scientists reveal drumming helps schoolchildren diagnosed with autism
October 22, 2018 - A stage IV cancer patient discusses what it means to live well with serious illness
October 22, 2018 - In Kids with Autism, Short Questionnaire May Detect GI Disorders
October 22, 2018 - Merck presents MK-1454 Phase 1 data for treatment of advanced solid tumors or lymphomas
October 22, 2018 - Aspirin may be effective in preventing blood clots after knee replacement
October 22, 2018 - Drug cocktail that increases lifespan discovered
October 22, 2018 - Gilead Sciences presents Phase 3 results of filgotinib in biologic-experienced rheumatoid arthritis at 2018 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting
October 22, 2018 - Study shows potential positive impact of group prenatal care on birth outcomes
October 22, 2018 - Immunotherapy with pembrolizumab extends survival in metastatic or recurrent head and neck cancer
October 22, 2018 - Health Tip: Keep Ticks Away
October 22, 2018 - Obsessive-compulsive disorder – Genetics Home Reference
October 22, 2018 - Researchers find disrupted functional connectivity in cerebellum of adults with HF-ASD
October 22, 2018 - Deciphera presents Phase 1 clinical results of DCC-2618 in patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumors
October 22, 2018 - Combination of Opdivo and Yervoy shows four-year survival benefits in patients with advanced melanoma
October 22, 2018 - Overcoming bottlenecks in early drug discovery with the power of sound
October 22, 2018 - Scientists discover genes that contribute to ADHD development
October 22, 2018 - Incyte announces Phase 2 FIGHT-202 trial data in patients with cholangiocarcinoma
October 22, 2018 - FDA approves update to Rituxan label to include information on treatment of rare forms of vasculitis
October 22, 2018 - At-home biofeedback therapy effective in relieving difficult-to-treat constipation
October 22, 2018 - Merck presents KEYNOTE-057 trial results for patients with high-risk non-muscle invasive bladder cancer
October 22, 2018 - People with periodontal disease less likely to reach healthy blood pressure ranges
October 22, 2018 - Phase III LONSURF study shows progression-free survival in patients with refractory metastatic gastric cancer
October 22, 2018 - Primary care doctors ‘not doing enough’ to curb STDs
October 22, 2018 - Pfizer announces PALOMA-3 trial results in patients with HR+, HER2- metastatic breast cancer
October 22, 2018 - ImmunoGen announces study results of platinum-resistant ovarian cancer therapy at ESMO 2018 Congress
October 22, 2018 - Study findings could set new standard of care for advanced anal cancer
October 22, 2018 - Erlotinib improves progression-free survival in EGFR mutated NSCLC
October 22, 2018 - Pain, insomnia, and depression often drive osteoarthritis patients to seek medical care
October 22, 2018 - The International Society of Refractive Surgery honors Vivior Chairman with Casebeer Award
October 22, 2018 - Multi-strain probiotic helps reduce chemotherapy-induced diarrhea in cancer patients
October 22, 2018 - Study shows potential of avelumab plus axitinib as new treatment option for patients with advanced RCC
October 22, 2018 - Vertex gets European CHMP positive opinion for KALYDECO to treat patients with cystic fibrosis
October 22, 2018 - Phase III trial reports positive results with HDAC inhibitor in advanced breast cancer patients
October 22, 2018 - Prostate radiotherapy improves survival in men with low burden of metastatic disease
October 22, 2018 - Duration of respiratory disturbances may better predict mortality risk from OSA
October 22, 2018 - Free phone app helps low-income obese patients to lose weight
October 22, 2018 - Immunotherapy with nivolumab and ipilimumab may improve survival in patients with MSI-high metastatic colorectal cancers
October 22, 2018 - FOTIVDA expected to be included in new ESMO guidelines for advanced renal cell carcinoma
October 22, 2018 - Compression Collar May Protect Brain of Female Soccer Players
October 22, 2018 - Technique visualizes neuron communication
October 22, 2018 - Advancement in medical imaging methods for health care
October 22, 2018 - Takeda presents vedolizumab phase 3 VISIBLE 1 trial results for treatment of moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis
October 22, 2018 - Immunotherapy increases survival in some patients with metastatic triple negative breast cancer
October 22, 2018 - Exelixis presents CABOSUN and METEOR trial results in patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma
October 22, 2018 - LYNPARZA Phase III SOLO-1 results show improved outcome for patients with advanced BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer
October 22, 2018 - Brainlab unveils ExacTrac Dynamic at ASTRO meeting in San Antonio, Texas
October 22, 2018 - Not exercising is worse than smoking, diabetes or heart disease finds study
October 22, 2018 - Shorter course of trastuzumab could be an option for women with HER2+ early breast cancer
October 22, 2018 - Map of Mouse Hippocampus Could Be Weapon Against Alzheimer’s
October 22, 2018 - Psychotropic polypharmacy is common in Alzheimer’s disease
October 22, 2018 - Texas A&M and UTA establish Texas Genomics Core Alliance
October 22, 2018 - Analyzing mouse’s potential as animal model of decision-making
October 22, 2018 - Radiotherapy can prolong survival in prostate cancer
October 22, 2018 - A genetic mutation involved in relapse
October 21, 2018 - Report reveals growing impact of cannabis on young people
October 21, 2018 - NSF awards $5 million grant to help scientists magnify societal impact of research
October 21, 2018 - Fertility Rates Down for Each Urbanization Level 2007 to 2017
October 21, 2018 - Genetically engineered 3-D human muscle transplant in a murine model
October 21, 2018 - Moms’ tight work schedules may affect their children’s sleep
October 21, 2018 - AHA: No Direct Link Between Preeclampsia and Cognitive Impairment, Study Finds
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