Humans’ ability to control and #regulate their #brain is unique: e.g., #controllingemotions, deciding to stay awake despite being tired, or suppressing thoughts. These abilities are not trivial, nor do humans share them with many animals. #Breathing is similar: animals do not alter their breathing speed volitionally; their breathing normally only changes in response to running, resting, etc.
Why are humans capable of volitionally regulating their breathing, and how do we gain access to parts of our brain that are not normally under our conscious control?
Is there any benefit in our ability to access and control parts of our brain that are typically inaccessible?
Given that many therapies—Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, trauma therapy, or various types of spiritual exercises—involve focusing and regulating breathing, does controlling inhaling and exhaling have any profound effect on behavior?
Studies prove that volitionally controlling our respirational, even merely focusing on one’s breathing, yield additional access and synchrony between brain areas. This may lead to greater control, focus, calmness, and emotional control.
The study, conducted by my post-doctoral researcher, Dr. Jose Herrero, in collaboration with Dr. Ashesh Mehta, a renowned neurosurgeon at NorthShore University Hospital in Long Island, began by observing brain activity when patients were breathing normally. Next, the patients were given a simple task to distract them: clicking a button when circles appeared on the computer screen. This allowed Dr. Herrero to observe what was happening when people breath naturally and do not focus on their breathing. After this, the patients were told to consciously increase the pace of breathing and to count their breaths. When breathing changed with the exercises, the brain changed as well. Essentially, the breathing manipulation activated different parts of the brain, with some overlap in the sites involved in automatic and intentional breathing.
Yes, the simple act of breathing can be a life changer!