Conditioning slowed breathing for relaxation in an animal model

The overall objective of this research proposal is to establish an animal model of slowed respiratory rate (SRR) to examine whether prolonged reductions in breath rate can alter indices of cardiorespiratory and autonomic function known to reflect wellness.

One therapeutic impact of SRR would be to elicit the relaxation response, defined as “a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress”.

We use an instrumental (operant) conditioning approach to induce SRR, such that rats undergo long-term measurable reductions in respiratory rate.

One prediction is that such changes will lead to long-lasting improvements in stress response systems reflecting reduced allostatic load and improved autonomic homeostasis.