At some point or another, we have all had to take a deep breath and let go. But, what if a deep breath does just the opposite? What if instead of letting go, a deep breath could actually help you remember? New research published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests just this—that a big breath in may actually be a simple way to increase memory retention.

According to a new study conducted by scientists at Northwestern University, a strong, deep inhalation through the nose boosts your brain activity and can even make your memory sharper. Exploring how the breath affects the brain, researchers found that inhaling through the nose stimulates the area of the brain where memory, emotions, and mood are processed—thus enhancing our memory recall and ability to make sound judgments.

“Faster breathing could have a positive impact on brain function and result in faster response times,” explains lead author Christina Zelano, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.”

Breathing In through Your Nose Boosts Memory

To test how breathing impacted memory, 60 volunteers were first asked to rate whether a face showed a fearful or surprised expression. On an inhalation, participants were able to identify the facial expression two seconds faster than on an exhalation. The same subjects were then asked to remember objects that they were shown on a computer screen. When asked to recall those images, researchers found that the individuals were able to remember them better if the images were seen while breathing in. Interestingly enough, any benefits of breathing in were diminished when the breath was taken through the mouth.

“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,” said the study’s lead author Christina Zelano. She continues, “When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.” Thus, their findings are consistent as the amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing and the hippocampus with memory function.

Helping You Breathe Easier at Northwest Face & Body

Northwest Face & Body’s team of Ear, Nose, and Throat specialists are always fascinated by new findings in their field! Our Kirkland team of physicians are dedicated to helping your breath flow as easily as possible. We specialize in a number of ENT problems, including nasal obstruction, allergies, and chronic sinus problems as well as sleep apnea.

Our ENT specialists would love to help you discover a way to benefit from this study’s latest discovery. Breathe easy with the help of Dr. Allegra, Dr. Ummat, or Dr. Shah! Schedule your personal consultation at Northwest Face & Body today.