The Tertiary Breath System: Inquiry into Achieving Autonomous Breath



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When considering the problems faced by astronauts, we find a wide gambit of opportunistic threats. Beyond standard Countermeasures, Human-countermeasures (H-CMS) – those countermeasures systems that are already engrained in our biology and can be trained or utilized through extraneous support technologies – offer unique, novel tools against these threats. One H-CMS is breath. Breath, or respiration, has a deep body of research to support numerous physiological and psychological (often creating a psychophysiological loop) response mechanisms that can have both acute and wide-ranging impacts on our human state. Further, the dualistic nature of breath (i.e., its ability to be both manually and automatically controlled) makes it the only human vital function that can be conditioned. This investigation explores the use of Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS) as a display (i.e., stimulus delivery) technology, in attending to limitations of display landscapes (e.g., audio/visual environments are heavily polluted with data demands on a user). GVS uses electrical current to stimulate vestibular nuclei and has been demonstrated to be removed from self-motion commands at high-frequency. The study showed clear stimulus control of the subject through the GVS cue (with correct, conditioned response rates of M = 97.1%, SD = 5.08) and showed a statistically significant effect on the reduction of breathing frequency, t(26) = 8.36, p<.001; d = 1.61– as is expected both by a) the presence of the deep slow breathing (DSB) behavior being cued, as well as via b) the cascading effects of parasympathetic nervous system engagement initiated by DSB design. While the study did also there was no support for the research hypothesis – that there would be a relationship between the idealized breath topography and the conditioned-gamified (i.e., distracted, conditioned) performance – for, both, duration, t(26) = 9.95, p<.001; d = 1.91, and depth, t(26) = 3.28, p = 0.003; d = 0.631, extended comparative assessments against the subject under load (i.e., gamified pacman, unconditioned) for duration, t(26) = 21.4, p<.001; d = 4.11, and depth, t(26) = 13.4, p<.001; d = 2.58, suggest that the executed breath is much more like the idealized breath than the subject’s nominal breath. Overall, while further trails/time could improve the topography of the skill, there is a clear opportunity present in conditioning breath. Expansion of this work would enable increased respiration complexity and the creation of autonomous breath pathways to enhance human potential, especially in austere environments (i.e., allowing artificial intelligence to optimize breath protocols based on other missions, self, and environmental conditions or deltas).



breath, respiration, autonomous, galvanic vestibular stimulation, GVS, ventilatory response, respiratory psychophysiology, classical conditioning, sympathetic nervous system, parasympathetic nervous system, human-countermeasures, countermeasures, displays, sensors, human, space, astronaut