Want to Improve Your Memory?
We all sometimes wish we could improve our memory, whether it be revising for a test, or trying to memorise an important pitch. But did you know that there’s a strong link between breathing and memory? A 2016 study looking at memory function found that our rhythm of breath directly influences our brain activity.
They found that it is not just the rhythm of your breath that affects mental performance, but other factors too, such as how deep you breathe and whether you breathe through your nose or mouth. The researchers found that deep breathing, especially the inhalation part, increased the participants’ ability to recollect images and other information. Additionally, they found that those breathing through the nose, rather than the mouth had higher activity and therefore were more alert and able to recall information. This is because inhaling through the nose triggers parts of the brain, the amygdala and hippocampus.
The amygdala is involved in the input and processing of emotion, while the hippocampus is essential for declarative or episodic memory. During emotional reactions, these two brain regions interact to translate the emotion into particular outcomes.
The study took 70 participants between the ages of 18-30 and gave them a task of determining whether a face, which appeared for 1 second on a screen, showed surprise or fear. At the same time, they were connected to a machine that monitored their breathing. The intention of the research was to determine if there was a difference in processing from inhalation vs exhalation and when compared to mouth or nose breathing. They discovered that when the participants inhaled through the nose, the speed at which they processed the images and their mental capabilities were significantly increased!
So by practising various breathing techniques, we can increase our cognitive ability to recall memories. So the next time you’re trying to remember something, try deep breathing through your nose and see whether this helps trigger that memory!