Brain Research: Rhythm of Breathing Affects Memory and Fear
The Journal of Brain Research aims to disseminate knowledge and promote discussion through the publication of peer-reviewed, high quality research papers on all topics related to Neuroscience.
Breathing is not just for oxygen; it’s now linked to brain function and behavior.
rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall. These effects on behavior depend critically on whether you inhale or exhale and whether you breathe through the nose or mouth.
In the study, individuals were able to identify a fearful face more quickly if they encountered the face when breathing in compared to breathing out. Individuals also were more likely to remember an object if they encountered it on the inhaled breath than the exhaled one. The effect disappeared if breathing was through the mouth.
“One of the major findings in this study is that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation compared with exhalation, “When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.”
The amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing, fear-related emotions. So, scientists asked about 60 subjects to make rapid decisions on emotional expressions in the lab environment while recording their breathing. Presented with pictures of faces showing expressions of either fear or surprise, the subjects had to indicate, as quickly as they could, which emotion each face was expressing.
“If you are in a panic state, your breathing rhythm becomes faster”
Thus, our body’s innate response to fear with faster breathing could have a positive impact on brain function and result in faster response times to dangerous stimuli in the environment.” Another potential insight of the research is on the basic mechanisms of meditation or focused breathing. “When you inhale, you are in a sense synchronizing brain oscillations across the limbic network.
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Journal of Brain Research