Breathing: it’s an automatic process we often don’t give a second thought. Yet recent scientific discoveries have begun to shed light on a fascinating relationship between breathing and memory function.

Our breath influences our neural activity, which in turn impacts our cognitive functions including attention, memory recall, and emotional processing.

The rhythm of our breathing creates electrical activity in the brain that contributes to the enhancement of emotional judgements and memory recall.

In fact, a study led by Christina Zelano at Northwestern University demonstrated that the act of breathing, specifically through the nose, can have a direct impact on cognitive functions such as memory recall.

Zelano’s research team carried out a series of experiments involving human subjects, and found that memory recall was significantly better during inhalation compared to exhalation. This effect was most pronounced when the subjects were breathing through their noses.

The study showed that the rhythm of breathing can induce changes in the brain, enhancing the emotional judgement and improving memory recall.

Furthermore, the amygdala and the hippocampus, two brain regions linked to emotion, memory function, and smell, are significantly affected by the breathing rhythm.

These areas of the brain are part of the limbic system, which controls emotions and memory. It’s thought that the act of breathing may modulate the functions of these brain regions, thereby influencing memory and emotional processing.

Moreover, the act of controlled, deep breathing, often utilised in mindfulness and meditation practices, has been shown to enhance memory recall.

A study published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology showed that mindfulness-based attention, which involves focusing on one’s breathing, increases the ability to maintain visuospatial information over short periods.

This suggests that deep, controlled breathing can improve working memory capacity, the kind of memory we use to hold and manipulate information in our minds over short periods.

While the relationship between breathing and memory remains an emerging field, these findings suggest exciting possibilities for future research and potential therapeutic applications.

Understanding the impact of breathing on memory could have implications for interventions related to cognitive decline, stress, anxiety, and conditions such as ADHD and Alzheimer’s disease.

In conclusion, it seems that the simple act of breathing, often taken for granted, can play a significant role in our cognitive functions, specifically memory recall.

So next time you’re struggling to remember something, take a moment, take a deep breath, and see if it helps. It appears our breath holds more power over our brains than we might think.