The Brain's Resonance With Breathing-Decelerated Breathing Synchronizes Heart Rate and Slow Cortical Potentials

Author: Thilo Hinterberger, Nike Walter, Christopher Doliwa, Thomas Loew
Affiliation: 1 Research Section of Applied Consciousness Sciences, Department of Psychosomatic Medicine, University Medical Center Regensburg, Germany.
Conference/Journal: Journal of breath research
Date published: 2019 Jun 27
Other: Volume ID: 13 , Issue ID: 4 , Pages: 046003 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1088/1752-7163/ab20b2. , Word Count: 188

Numerous methods for enhancing consciousness and well-being emphasize the role of breathing. For the first time, we have investigated the link between body rhythms and slow cortical brain dynamics during paced breathing. We present physiological data from 37 participants who performed paced breathing sessions with respiration rates (RRs) from 6 to 14 s/cycle (with 7 min for each task). Measures of respiration, heart rate variability (HRV) and 64-channel electroencephalogram (EEG) as well as subjective ratings were recorded and compared with each other. Both the respiratory sinus arrhythmia of the HRV and the slow cortical potentials (SCPs) of the EEG correlated with the respiration cycle. The highest correlations were observed at a RR of 10 s/cycle for the SCPs. A strong positive voltage deflection during inhalation is followed by a negative variation during exhalation. This decelerated breathing rhythm matches the frequency of baroreceptor sensitivity, leading to synchronization between breathing, HRV, baroreceptors and the brain. Subjectively, participants rated this RR as the most relaxing one. This study demonstrates the importance of the effect of speed of breathing on brain dynamics, which might help in understanding the role of breathing in mental health.

PMID: 31071704