What’s Old Is New Again, Especially If You’re Anxious:
Recently, an interesting mashup of old and new science has happened in the health space.
Modern medicine can’t cure one thing, so people try an old thing.
Science does an investigation, finds one old supplement is snake-oil and another isn’t.
But for thousands of years, health-nuts from far-eastern yogis right down to your Mom have often advised one thing for Anxiety: Take A Deep Breath.
And science may have just figured-out why…
Back To The Future:
So back in 1991, a researcher named Jack Feldman discovered a very tiny but interesting part of the brain.
It’s a little bundle of nerves called the preBotC, and it’s a type of pacemaker for every Yoga instructor’s favorite activity.
-it’s for Breathing.
And it wasn’t just found in Mice. -There’s one in Humans, too!
Which Part Does What?:
A little bit later, scientists were able to target very small parts of this region with a test that eliminates a specific type of breathing. (sighs)
(yes, they have a little chamber that can measure tiny mouse-breaths; -and mice can sigh.)
Still later on, they discovered a smaller part of the pBC made of 175 brain-cells they hoped might all do a similar thing.
They then created some specially-engineered mice in which they could knock out these exact 175 cells to see what happens.
Breathing Didn’t Stop, But Something Else Did!:
And a surprising thing occurred: They didn’t lose the ability to breathe in the many different ways mice can.
-Which is what the researchers thought the change would do.
The really interesting result was that the mice acted VERY relaxed.
-They also breathed a lot slower, too.
So it seems, our intrepid researchers Had Just Discovered The Cure For Anxiety.
They Didn’t Find Anxiety’s House, Just Its Spies:
It turns out that this group of brain-cells didn’t really control breathing or anxiety, but something weirder.
Something else was controlling it based on the information it got about breathing from the cells.
The small group of knocked-out cells were actually just spies.
Using prior research on brain-injury, researchers found these spies just reported to an ancient, faraway part of the brain that controls agitation levels. (the locus coeruleus)
Anxiety Changes Breathing, Breathing Changes Anxiety:
And very similar to the theory behind psychology’s Cognitive-Behavioral-Therapy,
This part reads the change in one physical behavior and changes brain activity & mental+physical agitation everywhere else in-response.
(sort-of like an automatic-jumpstart for a car that slows down too much)
-Which honestly it probably should do, because if you’re having problems breathing it’s kind of a life-or-death issue.
And it’s also the reason that when you’re hyperventilating, you’re probably anxious or panicking.
All We Need Now Is A Dimmer For Hyperventilation:
Now armed with this new information, it’s entirely-possible that science can come up with whole new ways of treating things like Anxiety, Panic, and other related disorders.
And forget beta-blockers! All they need is a drug that’s a targeted version of instant-expert-deep-breathing.
So for all those thousands of years, and billions of Moms, the old guys (and gals) actually did get something right! If you control your breathing, you can control your anxiety.
Check out the details in the Links:
Photo Credits: “Sleeping Bear, 2/3” by, Lassi Kurkijärvi
Source Study: Science-Breathing control center neurons that promote arousal in mice