December 10, 2016 at 7:34 am #47529
December 07, 2016 | By Marla Paul
CHICAGO Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered for the first time that the 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, said lead author Christina Zelano, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.
The study was published Dec. 6 in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The senior author is Jay Gottfried, professor of neurology at Feinberg.
Northwestern scientists first discovered these differences in brain activity while studying seven patients with epilepsy who were scheduled for brain surgery. A week prior to surgery, a surgeon implanted electrodes into the patients brains in order to identify the origin of their seizures. This allowed scientists to acquire electro-physiological data directly from their brains. The recorded electrical signals showed brain activity fluctuated with breathing. The activity occurs in brain areas where emotions, memory and smells are processed.
This discovery led scientists to ask whether cognitive functions typically associated with these brain areas in particular fear processing and memory could also be affected by breathing.
The amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing, in particular 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.
When faces were encountered during inhalation, subjects recognized them as fearful more quickly than when faces were encountered during exhalation. This was not true for faces expressing surprise. These effects diminished when subjects performed the same task while breathing through their mouths. Thus the effect was specific to fearful stimuli during nasal breathing only.
In an experiment aimed at assessing memory function tied to the hippocampus the same subjects were shown pictures of objects on a computer screen and told to remember them. Later, they were asked to recall those objects. Researchers found that recall was better if the images were encountered during inhalation.
The findings imply that rapid breathing may confer an advantage when someone is in a dangerous situation, Zelano said.
If you are in a panic state, your breathing rhythm becomes faster, Zelano said. As a result youll spend proportionally more time inhaling than when in a calm state. Thus, our bodys 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, Zelano noted.
Other Northwestern authors include Heidi Jiang, Guangyu Zhou, Nikita Arora, Dr. Stephan Schuele and Dr. Joshua Rosenow.
The study was supported by grants R00DC012803, R21DC012014 and R01DC013243 from the National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders of the National Institutes of Health.December 30, 2016 at 4:03 am #47530
By Cassie Shortsleeve December 26, 2016
Being stuffed up sucks. Ever wonder why it seems like one nostril feels way more clogged than the other? Its not just your imagination: Theres a scientific reason behind it.
Credit a physiological response called the nasal cycle, a process where your nostrils take turns sucking in more air, says Rachel Roditi, M.D., a surgeon in the division of otolaryngology at Brigham and Womens Hospital. Find out why your nostrils play tag teamand what you can do when one sides all jammed up.
Structures in both sides of your nose called inferior turbinates are responsible for warming and humidifying air before it reaches your lungs, says Dr. Roditi. This protects your lungs by reducing dryness and irritation. That process is a lot of work. So your nose funnels its resources more to one side than the other to make the process more efficient.
It sends more blood flow to one nostril, which warms the air coming in through there, but also causes the turbinate on that side to swell. That swelling means theres less room for air to make its way in. Its pretty subtle, thoughunless you have a cold, infection, allergies, or a structural problem like a deviated septum, you probably wont notice it going on.
But when you are sick, blood flow to your nose increases even more, sparking more swelling and greater mucus production in your nasal region, says Dr. Roditi. Even though youre congested throughout your entire nose, you feel it more strongly in the one nostril where the turbinate is already swollen as part of the normal nasal cycle.
Theres really nothing you can do to shut off the nasal cycle, says Dr. Roditi. Its likely that one nostril will always feel more stuffed up than the other when youre sick. Still, after about 90 minutes to 4 hours, your nose switches sides. When that occurs, youll probably feel some relief when the swelling in the one nostril goes downbut then the other side will start to feel clogged instead.
Your best bet is to work on easing the congestion overall. Steam from a hot shower or humidifier can help open the floodgates, says Dr. Roditi. And saline nasal sprays can help flush out mucus, too.
Consider topical nasal congestion sprays with oxymetazoline, like Afrin which constricts blood vesselsmore of a last resort, says Jonathan A. Bernstein, M.D., an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Asthma. These sprays can cause rebound congestion, he says. That means your nose becomes addicted to them, and relies on them to open up.
If you must use them, stick to two puffs a day for no more than five to seven days, he says. If your stuffed-up symptoms persist beyond 10 to 14 days, or you notice nasal congestion at times other than when youre sick, check in with your doctor to make sure that something biggerlike a deviated septumisnt at play, says Dr. Roditi.
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