Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered for the first time that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall.

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These effects on behavior depend critically on whether you inhale or exhale and whether you breathe through the nose or mouth.
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In the study, individuals were able to identify a fearful face more quickly if they encountered the face when breathing in compared to breathing out. Individuals also were more likely to remember an object if they encountered it on the inhaled breath than the exhaled one. The effect disappeared if breathing was through the mouth.
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“One of the major findings in this study is that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation compared with exhalation,” said lead author Christina Zelano, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.”
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The study was published Dec. 6 in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The senior author is Jay Gottfried, professor of neurology at Feinberg.
Northwestern scientists first discovered these differences in brain activity while studying seven patients with epilepsy who were scheduled for brain surgery. A week prior to surgery, a surgeon implanted electrodes into the patients’ brains in order to identify the origin of their seizures. This allowed scientists to acquire electro-physiological data directly from their brains. The recorded electrical signals showed brain activity fluctuated with breathing. The activity occurs in brain areas where emotions, memory and smells are processed.
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This discovery led scientists to ask whether cognitive functions typically associated with these brain areas — in particular fear processing and memory — could also be affected by breathing.
The amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing, in particular fear-related emotions. So scientists asked about 60 subjects to make rapid decisions on emotional expressions in the lab environment while recording their breathing.
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Presented with pictures of faces showing expressions of either fear or surprise, the subjects had to indicate, as quickly as they could, which emotion each face was expressing.
When faces were encountered during inhalation, subjects recognized them as fearful more quickly than when faces were encountered during exhalation. This was not true for faces expressing surprise. These effects diminished when subjects performed the same task while breathing through their mouths. Thus the effect was specific to fearful stimuli during nasal breathing only.
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In an experiment aimed at assessing memory function — tied to the hippocampus — the same subjects were shown pictures of objects on a computer screen and told to remember them. Later, they were asked to recall those objects. Researchers found that recall was better if the images were encountered during inhalation.
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The findings imply that rapid breathing may confer an advantage when someone is in a dangerous situation, Zelano said.
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“If you are in a panic state, your breathing rhythm becomes faster,” Zelano said. “As a result you’ll spend proportionally more time inhaling than when in a calm state. Thus, our body’s innate response to fear with faster breathing could have a positive impact on brain function and result in faster response times to dangerous stimuli in the environment.”
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Another potential insight of the research is on the basic mechanisms of meditation or focused breathing. “When you inhale, you are in a sense synchronizing brain oscillations across the limbic network,” Zelano noted.
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Awareness

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Awareness seems to be a simple, straight forward skill.
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It takes daily, persistent practice to achieve any level of awareness.
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Dissociation can be so imbedded in our daily existence, we do not see it, or seem to experience its subtle influence.
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We judge and think way to much. We wander into thought about the past, judge whether we are worthy or unworthy, whether we are right or wrong.
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This wandering fuels anxiety, depression, PTSD or any dissociative disorder.
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We need to practice paying attention in every waking moment.
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We can use our sight, hearing, smell and touch to connect to this present moment.
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We can use our breath to calm our nervous system, to slow our mind and build our focus.
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The body can go supersonic speed, but the mind loses awareness when it speeds up.
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Notice the speed of the mind and the breath to become more aware of now.
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Awareness will become habit and healing will increase over time.
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Clinging

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You can only lose
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what you cling to.
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— Buddha
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When life is good, we can explain it Cognitively, however _______

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When loss arrives, we lose a job, a family member contracts cancer, a good friend dies tragically, thought fails to give life purpose.
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How could we explain life if we were born into poverty, an abusive situation?
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We all die, suffering seems to be part of every life at some time.
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For those who were born blind, schizophrenic, mentally challenged, physically handicapped, how do they cognitively justify their plight?
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Life is to be lived in the present moment, not narrated, not compared to others.
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We assess what skills are available, then exert maximum effort with a positive attitude.
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There is happiness in living such a challenged life.
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Life is not fair, do not fight it, accept your challenge and live it fully.
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The happiest we will ever be, is attained through total acceptance, and total effort, living life fully.
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The Mind

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The mind in its natural state can be compared to the sky,

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covered by layers of cloud which hide its true nature.”

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~Kalu Rinpoche

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T.S. Eliot

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“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
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Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
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But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
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Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards.
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Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
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There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
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I can only say, there we have been: but I can not say where.
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And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.”
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The midpoint, the space between the breaths,  Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is.

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Become the space between the breaths.

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Darkness and Silence

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“Everything has its wonders,
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even darkness and silence,
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and I learn whatever state I am in,
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therin to be content.”
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-Helen Keller –
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