Studies conducted by researchers Artin Arshamian, Behzad Iravani, Asifa Majid and Johan N. Lundström for the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have indicated that the way in which we breathe has an impact on memory.
The research published in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that memory consolidation is enhanced in subjects who breathe through their noses. Their memories are clearer and more intelligible than memories of people who breathe through their mouths.
For the purposes of the study, the researchers demonstrated that a subject who breathes through his or her nose will remember odours better than one who breathes through his or her mouth.
Study participants were asked to memorise a selection of 12 smells and then to breathe through their noses or through their mouths for a period of one hour.
When this time was up, the subjects were then presented with a new set of 12 smells, and asked to indicate which, if any of them, had featured in the initial selection. Subjects who had breathed through their noses for an hour significantly outperformed the subjects who had breathed through their mouths.
For the researchers, the next step will be to study how the brain behaves when we breathe, and investigate possible links with the formation of memories. Previous studies have already shown that different parts of the brain are activated when we inhale and exhale.
As Doctor Arshamian points out that traditional medicine has long-recognised the importance of breathing through the nose.
“The idea that breathing affects our behaviour is actually not new,” he explains. “In fact, the knowledge has been around for thousands of years in such areas as meditation. But no one has managed to prove scientifically what actually goes on in the brain.”