The Influence of Breathing on the Central Nervous System
The structures of the respiratory system interact with structures of the skeletal, circulatory, nervous, and muscular systems to help you smell, speak, and move. Breathing requires complex interactions of the central and peripheral nervous systems with the respiratory system. It involves cortical (volitional) as well as. Most of the regulation of respiration is handled by the medullary respiratory center, a section of the brain stem found in the medulla oblongata and the pons.
Coughing helps expectoration and facilitates boosting fluid towards the cranial vector, stimulating the exchange of systemic immune information [ 35 ].
Further studies are needed to verify if a diaphragm-targeted training could improve the metabolism and immune response of the central nervous system.
The physiological stress load allows the nerve to regenerate itself, through autocrine and paracrine substances, which are generated by the same nervous structure [ 36 ]. The breath moving the central and peripheral nervous structure would induce mechanical stress on the same structures, which stress would lead to the mechanotransduction phenomenon, maintaining the function and shape of the nervous tissue constantly. The movement generated would allow the form and function to persist; minor or altered movement would mean minor and impaired function and form.
It is known that this happens with the heartbeat. For example, the head of the optic nerve moves synchronously with the cardiac cycle, with a pulsatile forward displacement during systole and an inward movement with diastole, for a maximum of 8.
The lamina cribrosa, the continuation of the contour of the sclera, moves in the opposite direction in systole, creating a stretching in the optic nerve.
There are no studies on the relationship between diaphragmatic breathing and the movement of the cranial and peripheral nerves. However, we can hypothesize a stretching function similar to the heartbeat because we know that both the heart cycle and the respiratory rhythm move the brain mass and the medulla.
There are no studies to check whether a specific work on rehabilitative breathing can increase the function of the central and peripheral nervous systems. Breathing and oscillation of the neural network The breath modulates the limbic oscillations, the cognitive and motor functions of the cortex.
The olfactory bulb and the piriformis cortex oscillate during the breath, probably coordinating the cortical neural network linked to learning, memory, and behavior [ 39 ]. The olfactory system is connected to the limbic system and to the hippocampus through projections of the entorhinal cortex: These oscillations are delta low frequencytheta Hzbeta they are found with odors, 30 Hzand gamma Hz [ 39 - 41 ].
The same respiratory rhythm is recorded differently from specific brain areas, from which the neural oscillations, which allow communication between them, start. The greater the oscillations are coordinated, the greater the function expressed by the different cerebral areas involved. The diaphragm is the "diapason" of the neural system. Breathing, in particular, affects the gamma waves, which involve the neocortex frontal, parietal, and temporal area ; these areas are activated for cognitive function: Neural oscillations are measured in local fields potentials LFPs or via an electroencephalogram EEGsinfluencing the action potential or spikes of neurons [ 42 ].
Oscillations organize the spikes of neurons over time more precise and durable synaptic connectionsimplementing their ability to function and communicate with different brain areas. Neural oscillations do not depend on the extent of oxygenated blood in the brain [ 42 ]. Gamma waves also influence the limbic and motor areas of the cortex [ 40 ]. The same diaphragm muscle could directly influence the neural oscillations particularly, the delta and theta wavesthrough the proprioceptive and interoceptive information that its movement transmits, activating the somatosensory and insular cortex, passing through the spinal pathways [ 4042 ].
The direct stimulation of the diaphragm, particularly when the theta waves are activated, always stimulates the cognitive activity [ 43 ]. The diaphragm stimulates limbic rhythmogenesis involving a large number of cells that are depolarized synchronously, starting from the sensory medullary pathways proprioception and interoception [ 44 ]. With this mechanism, we can more easily memorize the gestures thanks to the relationship with the hippocampus and the emotional memory [ 44 - 45 ].
The latter is the ventral portion of the medulla oblongata, an important region for the respiratory rhythm, particularly for the inspiratory phase [ 46 ].
This sending of electrical excitation takes the name of neural pacemakers [ 46 - 47 ]. The mechanisms underlying these fluctuations are not fully understood.
Motor coordination and diaphragm Studies on a human model have shown that the breath produces a bilateral activation of the cortex, particularly the primary motor cortex M1premotor cortex, and additional motor areas [ 50 ]. Cortical activations send afferents to the medullary respiratory areas corticospinal pathways so that the movements produced by the respiratory musculature have a sufficient quantity of oxygen.
There is a bi-univocal relation between the breathing and activation of the skeletal musculature. The contraction of the diaphragm excites the respiratory areas of the M1 cortex, in which areas of activation of the musculature of the limbs are present. Some chronic diseases that negatively affect the diaphragm present an impaired motor coordination, as in patients with COPD and CHF [ 3 ], as it happens in some neurological diseases, such as Parkinsons and dystonia.
Further studies are needed to exhaustively determine the underlying neural processes. It has been demonstrated on a human model that a variation of cerebral blood flow is able to produce action potentials, which can be recorded with EEG. An explanation could be related to the sensitivity of intracranial or endothelial epithelial layers, particularly in the areas of the blood barrier encephalic BBE.
These epithelium layers have transmural electrical potentials, which could be stimulated by pressure changes, creating adjustable electrical responses, probably passive ion-transfer mechanisms, such as sodium and potassium, between cell membranes. Blood pressure changes may directly stimulate an electrical response of brain neurons, with small variations in microvolts 0.
During cognitive tasks, it is possible that breathing may affect intracranial pressures and create low-voltage electrical responses. Conclusions In its contractions, the diaphragm muscle has systemic functional reflexes that are not only related to changes in tissue oxygen.
In this article, we reviewed some functions not yet well explored, such as the neural oscillations, the movement of the brain mass, the influences that the breath has on motor activities, and the electrical responses of the brain at low voltage the latter through variations of blood intracranial pressures.
Breathing and the nervous system.
Resuming the work of Morgado-Valle in the bibliographywe can conclude with this reflection: Breath is a behavior. Behavior represents the person. Breath reveals the person. Cureus is not responsible for the scientific accuracy or reliability of data or conclusions published herein.
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Footnotes The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. The continuity of the body: Bordoni B, Zanier E. J Altern Complement Med. Multifunctional role of the diaphragm: Low-back pain and gastroesophageal reflux in patients with COPD: Manual evaluation of the diaphragm muscle. Failed back surgery syndrome: Bordoni B, Marelli F.
A review of analgesic and emotive breathing: Depression, anxiety and chronic pain in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Monaldi Arch Chest Dis. Depression and anxiety in patients with chronic heart failure. Anatomic connections of the diaphragm: The subdiaphragmatic part of the phrenic nerve - morphometry and connections to autonomic ganglia.What is the Nervous System?
Curr Behav Neurosci Rep. Vagus nerve and vagus nerve stimulation, a comprehensive review: Yuan H, Silberstein SD. The lower cranial nerves: Morphology of the human cervical vagus nerve: Sympathetic nerve fibers in human cervical and thoracic vagus nerves.
These chemicals are important for metabolism, growth, water and mineral balance, and the response to stress. Pineal body, pituitary gland, hypothalamus, thyroid, parathyroid, heart, adrenal gland, kidney, pancreas, stomach, intestines, ovary Hormones provide feedback to the brain to affect neural processing.
Reproductive hormones affect the development of the nervous system. The hypothalamus controls the pituitary gland and other endocrine glands.
Lymphatic System The lymphatic system protects the body from infection. Adenoid, tonsils, thymus, lymph nodes, spleen The brain can stimulate defense mechanisms against infection. Respiratory System The respiratory system supplies oxygen to the blood and removes carbon dioxide.
Lungs, larynx, pharynx, trachea, bronchi The brain monitors respiratory volume and blood gas levels. The brain regulates respiratory rate.
Breathing and the nervous system.
Digestive System The digestive system stores and digests foods, transfers nutrients to the body, eliminates waste and absorbs water. Stomach, esophagus, salivary glands, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, intestines Digestive processes provide the building blocks for some neurotransmitters. The autonomic nervous system controls the tone of the digestive tract. The brain controls drinking and feeding behavior. The brain controls muscles for eating and elimination.
The digestive system sends sensory information to the brain. Reproductive System The reproductive system is responsible for producing new life. Testes, vas deferens, prostate gland, ovary, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix Reproductive hormones affect brain development and sexual behavior. The brain controls mating behavior. Urinary System The urinary system eliminates waste products and maintains water balance and chemical balance.
Bladder, urethra, kidney The bladder sends sensory information to the brain.