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Question Your World: Can Breathing Impact The Brain?

Can breathing impact the brain? 

Science has solved a lot of the mysteries of the universe, but there are still many things that we know very little about, like our brain. The brain is our cerebral powerhouse, and we humans have a pretty unique one compared to all the species that live here on Earth. Recently scientists did an experiment to answer a very big question: Can breathing impact the brain? 

For this study scientists tested subjects and captured data using EEG scans. First they got their test group to breathe in through their noses and then their mouths. After that the same tests were done asking test subjects to breathe out through the nose and mouth. The test subjects were shown images to see if they could react and how many they would remember.

Remarkably, the EEG data showed a direct correlation between breathing in through the nose and brain activity. The images shown during breathing in through the nose were reacted to faster and were able to be recalled more after the test. Interesting, right? 

While this observation did not yield any in depth answers, it did begin the process of further understanding the evolution of the human brain. Now the question that they are asking is why does this correlation happen? We’ve known for a while that the human brain uses up about 25% of the oxygen we take in. After all, this is the hardest working part of our body. 

Consider for a moment all the things that the brain does in the background while we carry on our lives. When we walk and talk with someone, we may actively be thinking about what we will say, but walking happens almost as an “auto pilot” type of action. The brain is always working and thus requires a lot of fuel, oxygen in this case. 

The average rate of breathing is about 12 to 18 breaths per minute, but during alert moments like emergencies or tests we tend to do about 20 breaths per minute. Perhaps this fact hints towards the evolution of the brain and the history of our own species. Maybe some of our earliest ancestors would breathe more during alert moments like hunting or escaping predators. Perhaps this gave the brain more oxygen to work with when brain power was needed at a higher capacity. Regardless, the human brain seems to be linked to our breathing patterns as far as these test results are concerned. 

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