Unilateral nostril breathing (pranayama) influences lateralized cognitive performance

Brain and Cognition.

1989 Mar;9(2):181-90

Block RA, Arnott DP, Quigley B, Lynch WC.

Department of Psychology, Montana State University, Bozeman 59717.

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Relative nostril efficiency (nasal cycle) is related to hemispheric EEG differences and performance on cognitive tasks. We investigated how unilateral forced nostril breathing influences spatial and verbal performance. Right-handed males and females performed both tasks under either left-nostril, right-nostril, or free-breathing conditions. Unilateral breathing affects performance differently in males and females. It influences male performance ipsilaterally on both tasks: Their spatial performance is better during right-nostril breathing, and their verbal performance is better during left-nostril breathing. Unilateral breathing influences female performance contralaterally, but only on the spatial task: Their spatial performance is better during left-nostril breathing. These differences within and between sexes may exist because unilateral nostril breathing differentially activates the two hemispheres and thereby facilitates performance, or because attempts of the brain to control the nasal cycle unilaterally interfere with performance.

 

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