The Brain and Breathing

Lots of research and articles by scientists explain just how breathing and how you breathe can connect to the brain and different parts when not our automatic action of breaths.

yoga and breathing

There are different types of therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, trauma therapy, or various types of spiritual exercises which all involve focusing and regulating breathing but does controlling inhaling and exhaling have any profound effect on your behaviour? This is the question many researchers have been trying to discover. So far it has been researched that it can gain control and aid towards calmness and focusing more.

Focusing on breathing or doing breathing exercises could adapt the brain. This has potential in a range of jobs that require extreme focus. Athletes, for example, have long been known to improve performance statistics with their breathing.

These studies can be found via 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. 

Your head can heal your body and even reduce oxygen therapy

Science is increasingly proving to us that what is going on in your brain can affect how the body heals, even from chronic conditions such as MS, chronic pain, HIV and COPD.
Obviously this should be used in conjunction with traditional treatments and medications, not instead of but science proves that what’s in your head can speed up and improve your body’s healing processes and it can influence everything from your immune system to pain control.
Our mental state has dramatic effects when it comes to the symptoms we experience like pain, fatigue, nausea and depression. Playing a virtual-reality game can ease pain in burn victims by 50% more than by drugs alone. Placebo painkillers trigger the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins. Showing that our thoughts and expectations can have a similar effect that drugs do. If we feel stressed and alone then warning signs such as pain, fatigue and nausea are amplified and if we feel safe and cared for then our symptoms are eased. Ultimately are brain controls and creates the experience of any damage that has been caused to our body. Our mood and mental and emotional state plays a huge part in being able to amplify or ease symptoms. Studies have shown that patients receiving warm, friendly good quality care at the GP and hospitals showed an ease in their symptoms compared to those to had a more quick, abrupt, colder experience. So regardless of the treatment given, it can be how the care is delivered that can determine a patient’s outcome and our recent trend of shortened 10min appointment slots and reduced staffing levels are in fact proven to be detrimental to patient care and outcome.
The brain controls physiological functions from digestion to the immune system and therefore is also relevant for the physical progression of the disease too. We cant wish ourselves better but by modulating our responses to stress we can influence our own brain into control our internal processes in a positive way to help reverse the progression of chronic conditions.
Stress of a situation can cause just as much harm as a physical injury for example in an earthquake just as many die from heart attacks as from falling rubble. Studies show that patients who feel negative or anxious before an invasive procedure will suffer more complications during and afterwards. Relaxation techniques have shown to vastly reduce pain and anxiety as well as the rate of adverse effects. Stressful situations can also effect our bowel movements and patients with IBS have found that gut-focused hypnotherapy teaches patients to tackle stress and calm their digestive system and is highly effective.
Stress also affects the immune system and in cases of long-term chronic conditions it can disrupt the healthy immune response and result in infections and auto-immune disease. It can accelerate MS and HIV conditions and recent studies have shown that stress-management therapy can stall progressions in MS and that mindfulness mediation can slow HIV.
There is also evidence that the mind plays a role in cancer. Stress hormones have been shown to make some cancers spread faster and an imbalance in the immune system can encourage the growth of tumours. Early results from studies show that stress-management reduces inflammation but we are still waiting to see if that translates into increased survival rates. Even if this isn’t found to happen, easing the fatigue and nausea from chemotherapy may encourage someone to stick to their treatment plan and indirectly improve survival.
Patients with COPD have found that through relaxation, meditation and stress management therapy they can ease their symptoms and reduce the frequency and severity of exacerbations and reduce the amount of oxygen therapy they need.
The mind can’t heal everything but it is clear that our mental state does have wide-ranging physiological effects that can affect our health in many ways even with those suffering chronic serious diseases. Trying to stay positive, feeling cared for and dealing with stressful situations can benefit your health.

Taking up the flute could improve your COPD symptoms

fluteFor people suffering from respiratory conditions such as COPD, asthma and emphysema, a major daily trial they face is trying to loosen and remove the thick mucus that can build up in their lungs.
The lung flute is a hand-held device that has been designed to help to loosen, mobilize and eliminate airway secretions and mucus build-up. It is simple to use by just blowing into it, just like you would to blow out a candle. It was designed four years ago and approved as a treatment for COPD and now a study by the university of Buffalo has concluded that it is effective at helping patients to breathe more easily.
Its design is based on vibrations. When you blow into the flute it causes an integrated reed to vibrate, which produces a low-frequency sound waves. These acoustic vibrations travel down to the patients’ lungs and the waves break up the mucus, which can then be cleared more easily by the patient when they exhale.
When the test subjects used the device twice a day they found that they could breathe a lot more easily and their respiratory tests results were far more improved compared to the test group not using the device. They also experienced less coughing and sputum production. The study also suggested that using the flute results in a decreased likelihood of COPD flare-up and that it may be more effective than similar devices currently used by cystic fibrosis sufferers.
This device; so simple in design, based on simple science, is non-invasive and easy to use could make so many patient’s lives so much more bearable, improve their health status and quality of life.
“This study confirms that the Lung Flute improves symptoms and health status in COPD patients, decreasing the impact of the disease on patients and improving their quality of life,” says Sanjay Sethi, MD, principal author of the study. He has led a series of clinical trials demonstrating the safety and efficiency of the Lung Flute, including those that played a key role in the FDA’s approval of the device for diagnostic and therapeutic uses.
The device has also been approved for use by laboratories to obtain deep lung sputum samples for analysis and the flute is currently the focal point of more research into its use for asthma patients and for possible diagnostic use in tuberculosis and lung cancer.

References: and and

Scientists Invent Particles That Will Let You Live Without Breathing

This may seem like something out of a science fiction movie: researchers have designed microparticles that can be injected directly into the bloodstream to quickly oxygenate your body, even if you can’t breathe anymore. It’s one of the best medical breakthroughs in recent years, and one that could save millions of lives every year.
The invention, developed by a team at Boston Children’s Hospital, will allow medical teams to keep patients alive and well for 15 to 30 minutes despite major respiratory failure. This is enough time for doctors and emergency personnel to act without risking a heart attack or permanent brain injuries in the patient.
The solution has already been successfully tested on animals under critical lung failure. When the doctors injected this liquid into the patient’s veins, it restored oxygen in their blood to near-normal levels, granting them those precious additional minutes of life.
Particles of fat and oxygen
The particles are composed of oxygen gas pocketed in a layer of lipids, a natural molecule that usually stores energy or serves as a component to cell membranes. Lipids can be waxes, some vitamins, monoglycerides, diglycerides, triglycerides, phospholipids, or—as in this case—fats.
These fatty oxygen particles are about two to four micrometers in size. They are suspended in a liquid solution that can be easily carried and used by paramedics, emergency crews and intensive care personnel. This seemingly magic elixir carries “three to four times the oxygen content of our own red blood cells.”
Similar solutions have failed in the past because they caused gas embolism, rather than oxygenating the cells. According to John Kheir, MD at the Department of Cardiology at Boston Children’s Hospital, they solved the problem by using deformable particles, rather than bubbles:
We have engineered around this problem by packaging the gas into small, deformable particles. They dramatically increase the surface area for gas exchange and are able to squeeze through capillaries where free gas would get stuck.
Kheir had the idea of an injected oxygen solution started after he had to treat a little girl in 2006. Because of a lung hemorrhage caused by pneumonia, the girl sustained severe brain injuries which, ultimately, lead to her death before the medical team could place her in a heart-lung machine.
Soon after, Kheir assembled a team of chemical engineers, particle scientists, and medical doctors to work on this idea, which had promising results from the very beginning:
Some of the most convincing experiments were the early ones. We drew each other’s blood, mixed it in a test tube with the microparticles, and watched blue blood turn immediately red, right before our eyes.
It sounds like magic, but it was just the start of what, after years of investigation, became this real life-giving liquid in a bottle.
This is what the future is about. And it’s a beautiful one indeed, one that is arriving earlier than we ever could have expected. I wonder if this would find its way to other uses. I can see it as an emergency injection in a spaceship, for example. But what about getting a shot for diving?
Reference article, Gizmodo [ScienceDaily]
Image by Filip Fluxa/Shutterstock