Next time you want to improve your ability to pay attention, you may want to observe your breathing. Findings from a study published in Psychophysiology (2018; doi:10.1111/psyp.13091) show that the locus coeruleus—the part of the brain that produces noradrenaline (also referred to as norepinephrine)—is directly affected by respiration. The study also shows that rates of inhalation and exhalation are related to attentional performance. Noradrenaline/norepinephrine, which creates alertness as it mobilizes the body for action, is at its highest level during stress.
“Our findings could have particular implications for research into brain ageing,” says principal investigator and study author Ian Robertson, PhD, Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and Global Brain Health Institute in Dublin. “Brains typically lose mass as they age, but less so in the brains of long-term meditators. More ‘youthful’ brains have a reduced risk of dementia, and mindfulness meditation techniques actually strengthen brain networks. This study provides one more reason for everyone to boost the health of their brain using a whole range of activities ranging from aerobic exercise to mindfulness meditation.”