Breathing through your nose improves memory
Your memories go through three main stages in their development — encoding, consolidation and retrieval. Previous studies have indicated that breath plays an important role in the behavioural and neural mechanisms associated with encoding and retrieval (recognition). New research from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden now shows that breathing is also directly responsible for memory consolidation — where memory is reactivated and stabilised and that how you breathe makes a huge difference in memory storage.
Participants who breathed through their nose between the learning and recognition remembered the smells better compared to the participants who breathed through their mouth.
For this study, the researchers had participants (male and female) learn 12 different odours on two separate occasions. The participants were then asked to breathe solely through their nose or mouth for one hour while awake in a resting consolidation phase. After the hour was up, the participants were presented with the old smells as well as a new set of 12 smells. They were then asked to identify the smells — if each odour was from the learning session or if the smells were new.
The researchers found that participants who breathed through their nose between the learning and recognition remembered the smells better compared to the participants who breathed through their mouth. The results show that breathing (especially through the nose) directly impacts memory consolidation and supports the hypothesis that respiration modulates core cognitive functions in the brain. This is the first study to demonstrate this, as previous studies have been on animals and laboratory animals cannot breathe naturally through the mouth.
Ancient healing modalities like meditation and yoga emphasise the importance of breath and confirm that mindful breathing has a biological impact on your mental, emotional and physical state. However, no one has been able to prove what goes on in the brain. But with this new clinical knowledge, scientists can now measure what goes on in your brain while you breathe and how it is linked to your memory and behaviour.
Source: The Journal of Neuroscience
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