March 27, 2023

The Queens County Citizen

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How Negative Emotions Affect Breathing

How Negative Emotions Affect Breathing


  • Scientists have identified the exact mechanisms of neurons associated with anxiety and pain, as well as how they affect respiration rate.
  • Their research could lead to the development of a new pain reliever that reduces pain without affecting breathing.

Who has not felt the pangs of suffocation when they hear the bad news, or almost suffocate after missing a train? This phenomenon, which we commonly call “stress” or “anxiety attack” (depending on the severity of the condition experienced), explains the well-known effect of our emotions on our body and our breathing rate. But how exactly does it work and why does the feeling of fear take our breath away? To try to find out more, American researchers from the Salk Institute conducted a survey.

Scientists have conducted experiments on mice and focused on a specific group of neurons in the brain system: the lateral parabrachial nucleus. They found that neurons range from the nucleus project to the amygdala, which processes fear and pain in the brain. These same neurons go to the Boetzinger complex, which produces the respiratory rate.

“We discovered very complex circuits with upstream and downstream inputs from these neurons. By discovering this circuit mechanism, we can better explain why breathing can often be coordinated with pain and anxiety.”, Explains the main study author Shijia Liu.

Therapeutic way for the new analgesic

According to Results of the study Published in review Neuron, The neurons and envelopes in the nucleus interact with each other based on the input coming from these areas, causing us to breathe more intensely and convulsively when we experience pain or anxiety. These findings may lead to the development of painkillers that prevent opioid-induced respiratory distress.

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“The biggest problem today is that opioids reduce pain, but humans die from breathing. By understanding these two approaches in our research, we can change the specific population of neurons through pharmacological intervention. To control pain without modifying breathing.”, The exact Shijia Liu.