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Highly Variable Breathing Rate, Regardless of Sleep Quality, is a Marker of Neuropsychophysiological Stress

Author(s): Amrita Pal, Taylor Kuhn

Introduction: Breathing rate variability (BRV) is known to be higher during psychophysically stressed states especially when accompanied by sleep deprivation. Additionally, spontaneous neuronal activity estimated with fractional amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations (fALFF) is higher at the occipital cortex during sleep deprivation. The ability to take deep breaths or sighs may counter some of these negative impacts. We tested this hypothesis in two groups from an HCP dataset showing tapered rhythmic breath patterns (burst) vs deep breath.

Methods: Demographics for the deep breath group were [(n=21, 5 males) age 29±4 years, systolic BP 121±13 mmHg, BMI 26±5 kg/m2] vs. burst group [(n=21, 14 males) 30±4 years, systolic BP 128±14 mmHg, 28±6 kg/m2], both groups had similar Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) 5±3, Adult Self Report (ASR) raw scores for anxiety-attention-aggression problems were higher by 2 points in burst group. From the resting state data, BRV and fALFF were calculated and correlated, followed by group differences in fALFF with BRV as co-variate.

Results: Burst group showed higher BRV (4±3 breaths per minute or bpm) compared to deep-breath group (3±3 bpm). Only in the burst group, BRV positively correlated with BMI (r = 0.5, p<0.05). fALFF correlated with BRV at the lateral ventricles, p<0.05 corrected for multiple comparisons. With BRV as co-variate, the burst group showed significantly higher fALFF activity compared to the deep-breath at the visual and somatosensory cluster.

Discussion: Individuals with ability to take deep breaths showed improved psycho-neuro-physiological states, irrespective of sleep quality.

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    Michael Maes

  • Molecular Biology and Neuroscience
    Deakin University
    Victoria, Australia

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