Scientists Just Discovered How Slow Breathing Calms the Mind and Body

Slow, deep breathing has remarkable effects on both the mind and body. When done right, almost anyone can gain relief from stress and anxiety in as little as a few minutes.

It’s one of the simplest and most accessible forms of relaxation, yet little has been known about how the simple act of breathing induces such a relaxed state. Now, for the first time, scientists have been able to identify how slow breathing†and calmness of mind are connected.

In a recent†Stanford University†study, scientists†discovered a small cluster of neurons deep within the brainstem, which connect the breath to different mind states including relaxation, attention, excitement and anxiety. It was first discovered in mice back in 1991 and is referred to as the”respiratory pacemaker” ó now known to exist in humans as well.

In comparison to the heart, which only slows and quickens, the respiratory pacemaker’s nature is much more multi-dimensional ó characterized by all the different ways our breathing can change. For example, our breathing changes when we’re excited, sighing, yawning, gasping, sleeping, crying and exercising.

The scientists wanted to find out if different types†of neurons in the cluster might control different types of breathing.†They†were able to pinpoint around 60 different subtypes in the respiratory pacemakers of mice by using advanced genetics techniques that allowed them to observe different proteins produced by the genes in each cell.

After identifying these neuronal subtypes, the scientists then began the process of†selectively knocking one subtype out at a time in mice. This allowed them to observe how the destruction of one subtype affected the mice’s breathing.

In a related 2016 study,†scientists were able to isolate cells in mice that were associated with sighing. When these cells were destroyed, the mice lost their ability to†sigh. (And yes, believe it or not, according to this research, mice can indeed sigh.)

The Stanford scientists knocked out a different neuronal subtype in mice, but†no changes in breathing could be observed soon after. Once the mice were placed in a different environment, however, the scientists noticed that they were unusually calm and didn’t exhibit their typical explorative behavior of wanting to sniff around†their new surroundings.

The mice would simply sit in one spot and groom themselves, providing evidence to the scientists that they may have isolated the neuronal subtype associated with calmness. While the mice still maintained their ability to sniff and breathe faster, they did it less frequently and instead†favored slow breathing.

The scientists think that rather than regulating the process of breathing, the cells instead monitor breathing and then send information to another part of the brainstem that’s responsible for arousal. This part, called the locus coeruleus, governs arousing states like wakefulness, alertness, anxiety and distress.

The†part of the brainstem where the breathing-control center is found seems to play an important role in†how breathing effects arousal and emotion, the scientists say. Their hope is that learning to understand this area better can lead to the development of effective forms of therapy for dealing with stress, depression and other negative mind states.

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Melania P
Melania Padilla11 months ago

This has been backed for several studies now; really interesting.

Jim V
Jim V12 months ago


Jerome S
Jerome S12 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Jetana A
Jetana Aabout a year ago

I forgot to add, there was NO REASON to torture mice in order to investigate a known cause and effect!

Jetana A
Jetana Aabout a year ago

Scientists are slow to discover what has been known for milenia by yogis and other meditators.

Telica R
Telica Rabout a year ago

I love meditation

Elaine W
Elaine Wabout a year ago

Noted. Thanks.

Margie F
Margie FOURIEabout a year ago

Thank you

Philippa P
Philippa Powersabout a year ago


Jonathan H
Jonathan Harperabout a year ago