Scientists from Stanford University and colleagues found a group of neurons in the brains of mice, the removal of which made the animals breathe more slowly and feel calmer. The research is published in the journal Science .
Slow, controlled breathing has been used for centuries to calm the mind and maintain mental health. Breathing techniques are also used, for example, in medicine to suppress panic attacks in patients. However, why this method works has not yet been precisely known.
The respiratory center is a collection of nerve cells located in the medulla oblongata, which cause rhythmic contractions of the respiratory muscles during inhalation and exhalation. Now scientists have discovered a group of neurons in the respiratory center, which, in their opinion, send signals to the stress center when the rhythm of breathing changes.
Scientists found these neurons by analyzing the expression of thousands of genes and isolating two of them that were most active in the Betzinger complex , which synchronizes the activity of the right and left halves of the respiratory center. Then, using genetic engineering techniques, scientists turned off these two genes in mice. Thus, the genetically modified mice lacked 175 neurons in the respiratory center.
Interestingly, these mice began to behave differently from others. Their breathing became calmer and slower. When they were placed in a new location, they, unlike normal mice, were in no hurry to explore new territory. The mice just sat there and licked their fur. Analyzes have shown that these animals have increased low -wave brain activity, characteristic of deep sleep.
Researchers have found a connection between this group of neurons and the blue spot, a nucleus located in the brain stem that is responsible for the physiological response to stress and anxiety. Scientists believe that this small group of neurons respond to the rhythm of breathing and send signals to the blue spot, which affects our mood.
Scientists hope a better understanding of the respiratory center will help develop new treatments for depression and other mental disorders.