Breathing with the mind: Effects of motor imagery on breath-hold performance.


Univ Lyon, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, Laboratoire Interuniversitaire de Biologie de la Motricité, EA 7424, F69622, Villeurbanne Cedex, France. Electronic address: [Email]


We aimed at studying the effect of Motor Imagery (MI), i.e., the mental representation of a movement without executing it, on breath-holding performance. Classical guidelines for efficient MI interventions advocate for a congruent MI practice with regards to the requirements of the physical performance, specifically in terms of physiological arousal. We specifically aimed at studying whether an incongruent form of MI practice might enhance the breath-hold performance. In a counterbalanced design including three experimental sessions, participants engaged in maximal breath-hold trials while concomitantly performing i) MI of breathing, ii) MI of breath-hold, and iii) an "ecological" breath-hold trial, i.e., without specific instructions of MI practice. In addition to breath-hold durations, we measured the cardiac activity and blood oxygen saturation. Performance was improved during MI of breathing (73.06 s ± 24.53) compared to both MI of breath-hold (70.57 s ± 18.15) and the control condition (67.67 s ± 19.27) (p < 0.05). The mechanisms underlying breath-hold performance improvements during MI of breathing remain uncertain. MI of breathing might participate to decrease the threat perception associated with breath-holding, presumably due to psychological and physiological effects associated with the internal simulation of a breathing body state.


Apnea,Breath-hold reflex,Motor cognition,Movement imagination,

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