Are you a mouth breather? How breathing affects your memory and stress levels

Researchers have found that the rhythm of your breathing influences memory recall and emotional judgement.

Scientists from Northwestern University have discovered for the first time that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall.

The recorded electrical signals showed brain activity fluctuated with breathing. The activity occurs in brain areas where emotions, memory and smells are processed.
The recorded electrical signals showed brain activity fluctuated with breathing. The activity occurs in brain areas where emotions, memory and smells are processed.

These effects on behaviour depend critically on whether you breathe through the nose or mouth, and the rate you breathe at.

In the study, individuals were able to identify a fearful face more quickly if they encountered the face when breathing in compared to breathing out.

Individuals also were more likely to remember an object if they encountered it on the inhaled breath than the exhaled one.

The effect disappeared if breathing was 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.

This supports previous understanding that when people feel a panic attack coming on, they take a deep breath, often through the mouth. Breathing less is actually the key to staving off hyperventilation, which means breathing slower, not deeper — and these things aren’t synonymous.

From a science standpoint, panicking and anxiety causes a drop in the blood’s carbon dioxide levels due to heavy, fast breathing. This can make oxygen levels lower, leading to a panic attack.

The conclusion? How you breathe – both whether through the nose or mouth, and the rate that you breathe at, affect your ability to learn and manage your emotions.

If you’re not aware of how you breathe… ask a friend or family member to observe you when you’re not aware of it.

#stress #resilience #learning #memory #nexus8

Further reading

Northwestern University – How Breathing affects memory and fear

 

Matt

Experienced business leader, mentor and coach, with fascinations for technology, psychology and ancient philosophies. A self-confessed techno hippy with a unique talent for bringing the best out in people.

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