Sunday February 24, 2019

New Study Shows Link Between Meditation And Greater Focus

Supplementation, a healthy diet, and daily exercise are key, with recent studies showing that aerobic exercise also increases brain size.

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Pranayamic breathing is just one way to improve brain health.

Pranayamic breathing – an important part of yoga and meditation – has a unique ability to strengthen our focus and a new study by Trinity College Dublin has unlocked its secret. The researchers note that pranayamic breathing affects the levels of a natural chemical in the brain called noradrenaline. The latter is released when we are challenged, curious, focused, or emotionally excited. When present at the right levels, noradrenaline helps the brain grow new connections and helps us concentrate better on important tasks.

The old masters were on the right track

The researchers noted: “Practitioners of yoga have claimed for some 2,500 years, that respiration influences the mind. We looked for a neurophysiological link that could help explain these claims.” The researchers did so by measuring breathing, reaction time, and brain activity in a small area in the brainstem called the locus coeruleus, where noradrenaline is made. Noradrenaline is affected by stress; when we are worried or anxious we produce too much, and cannot concentrate. When we feel lazy, on the other hand, we produce too little and once again, focus is lost. One way to boost levels is through yoga; another method which can complement the latter is the consumption of medical grade focus supplements, which contain compounds such as octopamine (which has a similar effect to noradrenaline).

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Conversely, those with lower mindfulness ratings had greater activation of this part of the brain and also felt more pain. Pixabay

Pranayamic breathing aces the right balance

In the above study, researchers noted that brain activity in the part of the brain where noradrenaline is produced raises slightly when we inhale and drops slightly as we exhale. Thus, balance is achieved and we can focus on what we have set out to do. Pranayama not only boosts concentration but also produces “changes in arousal, attention, and emotional control that can be of great benefit to the meditator.”

What is Pranayamic breathing?

Pranayamic breathing involves controlling and extending breath, with a view to manipulating your vital energy, battling stress, and improving your mood. It is often used in meditation and yoga and interestingly, many yoga experts rank pranayama as even more important than asanas (the postures performed in a yoga session). In yogic tradition, breath is said to carry a person’s life force. Interestingly, scientific studies back this assertion to the extent that pranayamic breathing is able to boost brain function and change the actual structure of the brain. In recent studies, pranayamic breathing has been found to lower or stabilize blood pressure, lower stress, and reduce anxiety and depression.

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In order to comprehend better the Indian seers constructed the special “BOAT” – named Yoga/Meditation.

Implications of the study for aging

The researchers are excited that their findings could signal a way to prevent brain aging. They stated that if brains typically lose mass as we age, practices such as pranayamic breathing greatly reduce the rate of brain shrinkage, thus potentially helping keep dementia and related diseases at bay. Because keeping noradrenaline levels at an optimal level can help the brain grow new connections, meditation is an ideal activity to pursue.

Pranayamic breathing is just one way to improve brain health. Supplementation, a healthy diet, and daily exercise are key, with recent studies showing that aerobic exercise also increases brain size. To make the most of the effect of breathing on focus, consider joining a yoga class or learning the essence of pranayamic breathing online or through an app like Prana Breath or Universal Breathing.

Next Story

U.S. Senators Launch Investigation on Rising Insulin Prices

U.S. lawmakers have intensified scrutiny on prescription medicine costs as the issue consistently polls as a top voter concern.

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A syringe with insulin. VOA

Two U.S. senators launched an investigation into rising insulin prices on Friday, sending letters to the three leading manufacturers seeking answers as to why the nearly 100-year-old drug’s cost has rapidly risen, causing patients and taxpayers to spend millions of dollars a year.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the committee’s top Democrat, sent letters to the heads of Eli Lilly and Co., Novo Nordisk A/S and Sanofi SA, the longtime leading manufacturers of insulin.

The senators pointed to similar, large insulin price increases at all three companies. Eli Lilly’s Humalog, for instance, rose from $35 to $234 per dose between 2001 and 2015, a 585 percent increase, they wrote. Insulin has been available since the early 20th century.

The senators asked for information on the process used to determine list prices and the process used to determine net prices after negotiations with pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) and health insurance plans. Their letters also asked for information about the cost of research and development, production, revenues and gross margins from insulin sales.

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U.S. lawmakers have intensified scrutiny on prescription medicine costs as the issue consistently polls as a top voter concern. Pixabay

“These hardships can lead to serious medical complications that are entirely preventable and completely unacceptable for the world’s wealthiest country,” the senators wrote in similarly worded letters.

‘Increasingly severe hardships’

“We are concerned that the substantial increases in the price of insulin over the past several years will continue their upward drive and pose increasingly severe hardships not only on patients that require access to the drug in order to stay alive but also on the taxpayer,” they wrote.

While Democratic lawmakers have launched several drug price investigations, this is one of the first bipartisan inquiries.

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“These hardships can lead to serious medical complications that are entirely preventable and completely unacceptable for the world’s wealthiest country,” the senators wrote in similarly worded letters. Pixabay

The Senate Finance Committee has the power to subpoena drugmakers.

The letters came just days before the same committee is scheduled to hold a hearing with seven pharmaceutical company executives, the latest congressional hearing on rising drug prices.

Also Read: What Does Architecture Of Houses in U.S. Tells Us About America

U.S. lawmakers have intensified scrutiny on prescription medicine costs as the issue consistently polls as a top voter concern. In January, top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee also wrote to the three insulin manufacturers asking for information on why their prices have rapidly risen.

About 1.2 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, requiring daily insulin. Type 2 diabetes, which affects nearly 30 million Americans, according to the American Diabetes Association, is treated with a variety of other medicines. But those patients may also eventually become dependent on insulin. (VOA)