A team of researchers based in Europe found that breathing through the nose might improve how our sensory experiences are transferred into our long-term memory.
A new study published Monday in the journal JNeurosci documents an experiment in which people were exposed to various odors and then spent the following hour either breathing through just their noses or their mouths. Afterwards, the nose-breathers were better at recalling the odors.
The study didn't look directly at brain activity at all, but it suggests that breathing through the nose could be better for consolidating memories, as well as encoding and retrieving them. Here's how the paper sums it up:
"Breathing through the nose compared to the mouth during consolidation enhances recognition memory. This demonstrates, first, that nasal respiration is important during the critical period were memories are reactivated and strengthened. Second, it suggests that the neural mechanisms responsible may emerge from nasal respiration."
Previous research has found that breathing through the nose might also decrease reaction time in addition to boosting the ability to remember.
There's still lots of research that needs to be done before we can say for sure that nose-breathing should be essential for anyone studying for an exam or needing a memory boost before an important presentation.
But there is clearly evidence that it might be worth a try. That is, if you can remember to do it when it counts.