You’ve probably heard from a teacher or two (or that friend who’s just always looking for a good study hack) that chewing the same flavor of gum when you study and again when you take the test is good for jogging your memory. But while we thought the science behind the trick all came down to taste, that old nugget of knowledge may actually have more to do with smell than anything else. New research offers potential ties between nasal breathing and memory formation, which of course begs the question: could breathing through your nose be the next big memorization hack?
A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience tested subjects’ abilities to recall smells they had been shown previously after sitting quietly for an hour, with half of them mouth-breathing during that time, and the other half inhaling exclusively through the nose. Although the study was a small one, the results were pretty definitive; the participants who spent time breathing through their noses had an easier, clearer time recalling the memories associated with those smells than the mouth-breathers, who struggled with blurrier memories and fewer correct answers when tested.
Artin Arshamian, a neuroscientist and lead author of the study, told the New York Times that although this study doesn’t necessarily prove anything definitively, he wouldn’t be surprised if there is a large swath of unmapped connections between smells and memories hidden in our brains. “Given the fact that breathing has been used to change mental states for thousands of years, we still know next to nothing about respiration and brain function in humans.” We’ll take that as our cue to cut back on our mouth breathing immediately.