Neural basis for positive effects of breathing on emotional state Principal Investigator: J.L. Feldman Co-Investigator: M. Fanselow ABSTRACT: Over the past few decades, research involving the neural control of breathing has centered on how the breathing rhythm is generated and how sensory systems detect internal and external changes to modulate the breathing pattern. While we have learned that the regulatory breathing rhythm originates in the medulla, we know little about the neural circuits that are involved in volitional and emotional control of breathing and the mechanisms by which controlled breathing affects emotional state. The positive effects of controlled breathing on emotional state have been observed across many contexts and in the clinic. Using objective behavioral, physiological, and neuroanatomical parameters, we propose to establish the neural pathways from the brainstem central pattern generator for breathing to suprapontine regions that effect and/or affect emotional state and develop a standard protocol in rodents to measure the effects of changing breathing on emotional state. Development of such an animal model will allow us to probe in behaving rodents the neural circuits that are involved in reducing stress, anxiety, pain perception, depression, etc., as a result of epochs of controlled breathing. The proposed research has the potential to lead to more effective methods for treating debilitating negative emotional states, including depression and panic.
In humans, continuous breathing from birth is essential to life and requires that the nervous system generate a reliable and robust rhythm that drives inspiratory and expiratory muscles. The proposed studies will significantly advance our understanding of how controlled breathing can produce positive effects on emotional state for amelioration of anxiety, stress, depression and panic.