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Effect of slowed respiration on cardiac parasympathetic response to threat



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Effect of slowed respiration on cardiac parasympathetic response to threat - Sakakibara M, Hayano J.;  Division of Clinical Psychology, Tokai Central Hospital, Japan.

The present study was designed to examine the effect of voluntarily slowed respiration on the cardiac parasympathetic response to a threat: the anticipation of an electric shock.

Thirty healthy college students were randomly assigned to the slow, fast, and nonpaced breathing groups (10 subjects each).

Subjects in the slow and fast paced breathing groups regulated their breathing rate to 8 and 30 cpm, respectively, and those in the nonpaced breathing group breathed spontaneously. Immediately after the period of paced or nonpaced breathing for 5 minutes, the subjects were exposed for 2 minutes to the anticipation of an electric shock during breathing paced at 15 cpm.

The amplitude of the high frequency (HF) component of the heart rate variability, an index of cardiac parasympathetic tone, significantly decreased during the threat in the fast and nonpaced breathing groups, whereas it was unchanged in the slow paced breathing group. No significant difference was observed among the three groups in the amplitude of respiration during the threat.

Results suggest that a slowed respiration decreases the cardiac parasympathetic withdrawal response to the threat. This study provides a rationale for the therapeutic uses of the slowed respiration maneuver in attenuating the cardiac autonomic responses in patients with anxiety disorder.

PMID: 8677286

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Concepts, symbols and science items



Activities and commonsteps





Controlled breathing
Reducing threats


Paced respiration