Perspect Nurs Sci.  2017 Oct;14(2):64-69. 10.16952/pns.2017.14.2.64.

The Relationship and Mechanism Underlying the Effect of Conscious Breathing on the Autonomic Nervous System and Brain Waves

  • 1Assistant Professor, College of Nursing · Research Institute of Nursing Science, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.


Breathing can be controlled either unconsciously or consciously. In Asian countries, various conscious breathing-control techniques have been practiced for many years to promote health and wellbeing. However, the exact mechanism underlying these techniques has not yet been established. The purpose of this study is to explore the physiological mechanism explaining how conscious breathing control could affect the autonomic nervous system, brain activity, and mental changes.
The coupling phenomenon among breathing rhythm, heart rate variability, and brain waves was explored theoretically based on the research hypothesis and a review of the literature.
Respiratory sinus arrhythmia is a well-known phenomenon in which heart rate changes to become synchronized with breathing: inhalation increases heart rate and exhalation decreases it. HRV BFB training depends on conscious breathing control. During coherent sinusoidal heart rate changes, brain α waves could be enhanced. An increase in α waves was also found and the synchronicity between heart beat rhythm and brain wave became strengthened during meditation.
In addition to the effect of emotion on breathing patterns, conscious breathing could change heart beat rhythms and brainwaves, and subsequently affect emotional status.


Respiration; Autonomic nervous system; Brain waves; Electroencephalography; Synchronicity
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