Breathing Through Your Mouth Can Mess Up Your Memory

Breathing through your nose or mouth can have a major impact on your memory and recall, according to a recent study.


Swedish researchers report that breathing through your nose may help with memory storage and consolidation. Their study was published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

What motivated these scientists to research a possible connection between smell and memory? Actually, their interest is based on previous research that a damaged sense of small can predict dementia.


For example, the amygdala, which is a small brain region that processes sensory information, lies close to the memory-storing hippocampus.

In addition, other research showed that people with a good spatial memory are better at identifying smells. Information related to time and space is located in the anterior olfactory nucleus, which is a brain area that is involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

New research now adds breathing into the mix. This study finds that breathing through the nose, rather than the mouth, improves olfactory memory.






Breathing: Study Results

The research team asked participants to learn 12 new smells on two occasions. After each session, the participants were asked to breathe either through their noses or through their mouths for 1 hour.

Next, the participants re-smelled the 12 old scents together with 12 new ones. After this, they decided which smalls were and which ones were new.

The results demonstrated that participants that breathed through their noses had more accurate recall compared to the group that breathed through their mouth.  


The next step is to find the mechanism responsible for the effect breathing has on olfactory memory. It will be necessary to monitor areas in the brain ( the amygdala) that control smell and memory consolidation ( the hippocampus).

They are currently developing a way to measure activity in the olfactory and memory area of the brain without having to insert electrodes.

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