Breathing In Through The Nose May Enhance Elements Of Cognition
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Breathing through your nose enhances emotional judgements and memory recall, according to a new study.
The study had 60 people quickly judge pictures of faces as either showing fear or surprise while having their breathing recorded.
The key finding was that people were able to identify a fearful face more quickly if they saw the face when breathing in compared to breathing out, and only if breathing through the nose.
In a separate experiment aimed at assessing memory function, the study also found people were better at remembering objects they had first been shown while inhaling.
The researchers also found that electrical signals recorded showed brain activity fluctuated with breathing.
The activity occurs in brain areas that process emotions, memory and smells.
Lead author, Christina Zelano, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said:
One of the major findings in this study is that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation compared with exhalation.
When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.
The amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing, in particular fear-related emotions.
The findings imply that rapid breathing may confer an advantage when someone is in a dangerous situation
If you are in a panic state, your breathing rhythm becomes faster.
As a result you’ll spend proportionally more time inhaling than when in a calm state.
Thus, our body’s innate response to fear with faster breathing could have a positive impact on brain function and result in faster response times to dangerous stimuli in the environment.
Another potential insight of the research is on the basic mechanisms of meditation or focused breathing.
When you inhale, you are in a sense synchronizing brain oscillations across the limbic network.
The study was published in Journal of Neuroscience (Zelano et. al., 2016).
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