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What influence does our breathing have on our memory?
Does our breathing affect the storage of information in our memory? Researchers have now found that breathing through the nose can actually help store and consolidate memories.
In their current study, the scientists at the Karolinska Institutet found that breathing through the nose can have a positive effect on memory. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "The Journal of Neuroscience".
Can a damaged sense of smell indicate dementia?
Neuroscientists have previously investigated a possible connection between smell and memory. These experts suspect that a damaged sense of smell can indicate later dementia. When examining a possible connection between smells and memory, the doctors discovered some interesting facts. For example, one study found that people with good spatial memory can recognize smells better. Another research showed that information related to time and space is stored in the anterior olfactory nucleus. This area of the brain is also involved in the development of Alzheimer's.
Breathing through the nose improved the smell memory
The latest research has now dealt with the possible effects of breathing technology on memory. The researchers came to the conclusion that breathing through the nose instead of through the mouth improves the so-called olfactory memory. The study asked male and female participants to learn twelve new smells on two occasions. After each session, the scientists asked the subjects to breathe through their nose or mouth for an hour. At the end of the study, the subjects smelled the old twelve scents they had already learned along with a dozen new scents. The participants then had to decide whether the smell was old or new. Research shows how our brains integrate odors with spatiotemporal information to create episodic memories, the study's authors explain. When people breathed through their noses, they could remember smells better than when they breathed through their mouths.
Why did breathing through the nose improve memory?
The study shows that people remember smells better when breathing through their noses while the memory is consolidated. It is the process that takes place between learning and memory recall. The scientists explain that previous research had already shown that so-called olfactory receptors can absorb not only smell, but also small variations in the air flow, with different parts of the brain being activated when breathing in and out. However, the researchers currently do not know how different breathing patterns affect human behavior. The idea that breathing influences our behavior is actually not new, the study authors say. In fact, such knowledge has existed in areas such as meditation for thousands of years.
More research is needed
With their new research work, the scientists now wanted to find out which exact mechanism is responsible for the effect of breathing on the so-called olfactory memory. An important next step is to measure what actually happens in the brain while breathing and how it relates to memory. This was previously practically impossible because electrodes had to be inserted directly into the brain. The doctors have managed to work around this problem and now, together with other colleagues, they are developing a new means of measuring activity in the nose and brain without having to use electrodes. (as)