The Science Behind Spire

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Spire’s activity and force sensors combine to identify periods where your breathing reflects a tense, focused, or calm state of mind. To do this, it senses the expansion and contraction of your torso as you inhale and exhale.

Algorithms in the Spire app classify your respiratory patterns into correlating cognitive/emotional state (see below). The in-app guidance is based on protocols from clinical interventions shown to alleviate anxiety and pain, increase heart rate variability, and reduce blood pressure.

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RESPIRATION

How you breathe dictates every internal process in your brain and body.

Respiration is the only autonomic function you have direct control over. Spire feeds your breathing data to algorithms that de-noise and classify it according to the way you normally breathe (what's calm for you is different than calm for another person).

These algorithms use many characteristics of the respiratory waveform: inhalation/exhalation duration and slope, hold durations after inhale and exhale, inhalation/exhalation ratio, consistency, and the waveform morphology itself.

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Sherwood, L. (2006). Fundamentals of Physiology: A Human Perspective, Thomson Brooks/Cole, ISBN 0534466974

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Spire

CALM

This state generally occurs in the range of 6-12 breaths per minute.

Calm breathing, measured as breathing consistently slower than your average rate, is the term Spire uses to to refer to a state of relaxation (autonomic down-regulation). This state is characterized by parasympathetic activation, the 'rest and digest' branch of the nervous system, associated with healthy blood pressure, sexual function, digestion, and immune system function. It counteracts the stress response, helping the body and mind maintain homeostasis. 75% of all parasympathetic fibers are in the vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve.

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Your Spire app will tell you when you've left a significant streak of calm breathing and provides progress metrics over time.

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DID YOU KNOW?

The Spire app displays your real-time breathwave in real-time on the Home screen of the app. This feedback is one of the most effective ways to grow your skill in breath control.

Grossman, P. (1983). Respiration, Stress, and Cardiovascular Function. Psychophysiology. Vol. 20, No. 3.
Sherwood, L. (2006). Fundamentals of Physiology: A Human Perspective, Thomson Brooks/Cole, ISBN 0534466974

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Spire

TENSE

This state generally occurs in the range of 18-24 breaths per minute.

Tense breathing is measured as breathing more rapidly (particularly exhalation) and erratically than you normally do. It is the term Spire uses to to refer to an 'autonomically up-regulated' state associated with anxiousness, escalating cognitive load, and agitation.

This state is characterized by sympathetic activation, the "fight or flight" branch of the nervous system. There are some benefits to this state as it prepares the body to deal with a threatening situations, store emotional memories, and preparing the body for physical exertion (exercise).

However, repeated or frequent exposure is associated with high cortisol levels, adrenal fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders, and a compromised immune system.

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Your Spire app will tell you when you've entered a streak of tense breathing and provides progress metrics over time.

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Plarre, K., Raij, A., Hossain, M., Ali, A., Nakajima, M., al'Absi, M., Ertin, E., Kamarck, T., Kumar, S., Scott, M., Siewiorek, D., Smailagic, A., & Wittmers, L. (2011). Continuous Inference of Psychological Stress from Sensory Measurements Collected in the Natural Environment. IPSN 2011, Chicago, IL.
Van diest, I., Bradley, M. M., Guerra, P. Van den Bergh, O. & Lang, P. J. (2009). Fear conditioned respiration and its association with cardiac reactivity. Biological Psychology, 80, 212-217.
Vlemincx E, Taelman J, De Peuter S, Van Diest I, Van den Bergh O. (2011). Sigh rate and respiratory variability during mental load and sustained attention. International Journal of Psychophysiology.

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Spire

FOCUS

This state occurs with greater stability and consistency in breathing.

Focused breathing is measured as breathing much more consistently than you normally do. It is the term Spire uses to to refer to sustained attention or concentration. In this state, the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches are in balance, characterized by alertness without perceived threat.

This is a form of 'positive stress' where our skills are being challenged but we can meet those challenges without feeling anxious. Being in this state has been referred to as being 'in the zone' as you work.

Spire

Your Spire app will tell you when you've left a streak of focused breathing and provides progress metrics over time.

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Boiten, F. (1994) Emotions and respiratory patterns: review and critical analysis. Journal of Psychophysiology. 1994 Jul;17(2):103-28.
Vlemincx E, Taelman J, De Peuter S, Van Diest I, Van den Bergh O. (2011). Sigh rate and respiratory variability during mental load and sustained attention. International Journal of Psychophysiology.

STATE-OF-MIND FACT SHEET

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Calm

Spire

Tense

Spire

Focus

6-12

breaths per minute*

18-24

breaths per minute*

16-20

breaths per minute*

slow,
regular

breathing

fast,
erratic

breathing

very
consistent

breathing

*Spire personalizes these numbers to you based on your baseline breath rate.

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MINDFULNESS

A mindset for daily living based on purposeful attention and emotional awareness.

Mindfulness is the practice of creating space between stimulus and response; it cultivates fluency in responding to a situation versus reacting to it. This requires strong ability to direct one's attention as well as the ability to observe without judgement.

A core technique in mindfulness is to use breathing as an anchor for attention. A second tool is breath regulation as a means of regulating the nervous system to allay fear and calm the mind. Greater mindfulness practice results in a lower resting respiration rate, among other clinical outcomes such as less depression and stress.

Spire

Your Spire app provides notifications at moments of notable change in your breathing patterns to enhance mindfulness.

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Baer R.E., (2005), Mindfulness-Based Treatment Approaches, First Edition: Clinician's Guide to Evidence Base and Applications (Practical Resources for the Mental health Professional); Academic Press.
Vlemincx, E. (2013). Do not worry, be mindful: Effects of induced worry and mindfulness on respiratory variability in a non-anxious population. Journal of Psychophysiology. 2013 Feb;87(2):147-51.
Wielgosz J, Schuyler BS, Lutz A, Davidson RJ. (2016) Long-term mindfulness training is associated with reliable differences in resting respiration rate. Nature – Scienti c Reports. 2016 Jun 7;6:27533.

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MEDITATION

A practice to improve attention.

Meditation, as used in Spire, is a practice where we train ourselves to be more skilled with our attention and to have greater awareness and control over emotions. The most common meditation technique is to maintain attention on the breath.

Regular meditation training has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, increase the brain's gray matter, reduce activity in the "self-centered" and self-referential part of brain, and improve concentration.

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Your Spire app combines guided experiences called Boosts to teach meditation techniques with real-time feedback on your breathing.

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WANT TO LEARN MORE?

You can learn even more about the science behind Spire on our blog.

If you have any questions or comments, we'd love to hear from you at hello@spire.io.