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Breathing and Anxiety:

Natures Chill Pill

Instructor: Anita McCrary

Breathing and Anxiety Natures Chill Pill

I. Physiological Suffering
II. The Neuro-Emotional Switch
III. Connecting Cognition and Respiration
IV. Course Exam

The course describes the neurological underpinnings of attention and how attentional breathing buffers the
psychosomatic effects of perceptual suffering. The course uses cutting edge functional magnetic resonance
imaging research to explain how circulatory gas exchanges within the emotional centers of the brain dampen
emotional reactivity.

Completion of the course will supply clinicians with the rudimentary neurological predicates of attention. The
clinician will have a clearer understanding of how attentional breathing buffers anxiety. Finally, the course
describes cutting edge therapeutic models used in the treatment of emotional dysregulation.

Physiological Suffering
Suffering: suffering is heartache, anguish, and/or voidance
of rationality. Clinicians witness a lot of suffering. Suffering
can be self-imposed and unavoidable. The neurological
systems underlying suffering are the topic of major
exploration in the new frontier of science the brain.
Suffering is an excruciating piercing in the back of the
throat (head) that an ocean of tears cannot wash away.
Where does such strong emotion come from? Is there
such a thing as relief from suffering? What does suffering
have to do with breathing? There is a connection. Vincents
frontoparietal control system (FPC) and Vagos S-ART
offer clinicians the client-controlled, neuro-emotional
suffering switch they have been searching for.
Following Vincents FPC research, David Vago (Harvard)
The Neuro-Emotional Switch and David Silbersweig (Brigham Young) developed
S-ART as a model for suffering. The model is based on
Justin Vincent (2008) suggests the frontoparietal control the principles of mindfulness-based intervention (MBIs).
system (FPC) is involved in suffering. Imagine the FPC Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for
as the brains air-traffic control. It exerts executive control depression and Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention
by comparing patterns, cues, or signs in the active (MBRP) for SUDs, stress and emotion dysregulation are
environment to make a decision. all empirically validated MBIs.
Vincents model of the FPC involves two brain systems S-ART is a contemporary evolution of the traditional
(or runways): the dorsal attention system (DAS) and the Buddhist dogma, distinguishing S-ART from its 2500-year
hippocampal-cortical memory system (HCMS). The FPC old historical model. Vago uses Vincent and Becks affect-
communicates with the DAS and HCMS systems. Its job is to biased attention and Foxs (2006) positive and negative
help a person make behavioral choices (or choose the correct goal-directed activity as theoretical principles for S-ART.
runway), matching the active environment (DAS) to previous According to Vago, task-negative and task-positive thoughts
patterns and/or motivational goals to guide response. create dysfunctional scripts and schemas (2008, p.16).

Breathing and Anxiety Natures Chill Pill

that non-practitioners had greater activation to negative
emotional images in the area of brain controlling attention,
cognitive control, goal-directed processes, and exerts
control over emotions (2012, pa. 28).

Taken together, Froeligers results suggest that attentional

Specifically S-ART pinpoints mental suffering (Vago, 2008, breathing helps a person by distracting the HCMS
p. 4) and develops self-awareness, self-regulation, and by using the DAS in response to emotional demand.
self-transcendence through relationships.These three Furthermore, the small study shows attentional breathing
processes make up the key components of S-ART, and helps a person avoid amygdala activation, thereby
it is meant to alleviate hypervigilance, avoidance, and preventing storage of an emotional event into long-term
disengagement delays. memory. So breathing distracts the amygdala, enabling
a person to buffer, if not extinguish, the psychological
In opposition to Vincent, Nathan Spreng of Cornell effects of anxiety. Paying attention to breathing helps a
University states that Vincents characterization of person ignore the trigger and disengages the emotional
the cognitive default network transmit[s] a profound connection to it.
misconception about the networks functional role
(Spreng, 2012). Speng suggests the FPC flexibly interacts
with both by classifying active DAS into memory HCMS.
Connecting Cognition and Respira-
Wei Gao of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill tion (Evans, 2010)
suggests the DAS is the default search and detection
system, whereas the HCMS connects past experience Oxygen: it is what makes life possible. The lungs work in
to future-oriented goals (Gao, 2012). Wei supports the conjunction with the heart to circulate blood throughout
initiative and regulating role of FPC over the two opposing the body. Brain activity is directly proportional to regional
systems. blood flow (BOLD-fMRI). Sensitive receptors in the
brain notice gas in the bloodstream and they respond
How does the FPC classify information? Could this system be a switching accordingly. Karleyton Evans from Harvard uses the
mechanism for cognition, such as the circadian cortisol switch for sleep
latest neuroimaging techniques to view these sensitive
gas exchanges in the HCMS, creating inspiratory muscle
The process of learning to control the FPC is the principle force and invigorateing emotional/affective behaviors. This
behind exposure therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization circuitry, suggests Evans, addresses the questions of
and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Mindfulness-Based which brain regions are involved [in emotional regulation]
Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) (van den Hout, 2011). Brett E. and how these structures mediate function within
Froeliger of Duke University studies attentional breathing respiratory pathways (p. 9).
affects on emotional information. His results indicate

Breathing and Anxiety Natures Chill Pill

Control of the emotional switch inside the brain begins with
attentional breathing. Attentional breathing (AB) supplies
a distraction between the DAS and the HCMS. Both play
a critical role in cognitive processing. Attentional breathing
gives the client the power and confidence to maintain
minute-to-minute recovery through choosing to attend
to the present (autogenic breathing - valuable content)
or to ignore it (BREATH, worthless content). Vincents
frontoparietal control system (FPC) and Vagos S-ART
are two theories for the neuro-emotional suffering switch
we must practice and master in recovery. We will call it
Adaptive Trigger Therapy; no assembly or tools required!

Breathing and Anxiety Natures Chill Pill

1. This brain system exerts executive control in decision- 6. Gas exchange within the brain:
making by matching active memory to stored mental a. causes memory loss
b. distracts the DAS, the dorsal attention system
a. Dorsal attention system
c. distracts the HCMS; hippocampal-cortical memory
b. frontoparietal control system system
c. motor cortex d. is a component of S-ART
d. emotional centers
7. Suffering and the psychosomatic symptoms
2. Brain activity is directly proportional to associated with it is activated by the:
a. the presence of gases in the blood stream a. amygdala
b. existing cognitive schemas b. frontal-parietal lobe
c. regional blood flow. c. central nervous system
d. exertion of executive control d. eyes

3. This technique supplies a distraction of the HCMS 8. Attentional breathing or focused breathing assists the
client by:
a. reflexes
a. distracting memory consolidation
b. memory consolidation
b. lowering blood pressure
c. suffering
c. alleviates hypervigilance
d. attentional/focused breathing
d. all of the above
4. Mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) is a component of
9. If a person is paying attention to his or her breathing,
a. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
he or she
b. Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention (MBRP)
a. reduces memory consolidation
c. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
b. cannot drive
c. makes bad decisions
d. All of the above
d. does not experience suffering
5. A baseball player warming up at home plate before
swinging at a pitch is using what cognitive system in 10. This neurological model takes an operational
the brain? approach to a 2500-year old spiritual practice.
a. DAS, the dorsal attention system a. S-ART
b. HCMS, the hippocampal-cortical memory system b. EMDR
c. frontoparietal control system c. Attentional/Focused Breathing
d. cortico-limbic circuitry d. FPC

Breathing and Anxiety Natures Chill Pill