What gets you thinking?

When research in one area changes your treatment in another.

By Dale Gregore


Jung J-Y, Kang C-K. Investigation on the Effect of Oral Breathing on Cognitive Activity Using Functional Brain Imaging. Healthcare. 2021; 9(6):645. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9060645

Reading the journal article referenced in this text made me think just as all research articles intend.  But here, the link with breathing and brain function/ cognition flashed in neon lights, reminding me again of the brain-breath connection.

We have all had the experience of reading an article and not resonating with the message or results at that moment.  However, at a different time or instance, re-reading that same article and really understanding the research principles, outcome and applications.  Whether it was timing or situational, this article popped out in my mind and made me think more about the need to be aware and even address breathing when working on memory with a patient.

Often in Speech Pathology, breathing is addressed when working on voice, swallow, and functional respiration during Activities of Daily Living (ADL.) Therapist may also work with patients on attention, information processing, comprehension, integration and higher-level cognitive functions such as working memory.  Those activities or therapy tasks are generally separate from voice, swallow, breathing.  After reading this article, I questioned…. should we incorporate breathing more into cognitive work?  Should we first address oral versus nasal breathing at rest and during a cognitive task?  Should we introduce nose clearing techniques and establish nasal breathing before starting on the memory task?  Hmmmmm, interesting!  This made me think and even discuss this and other research with my team of speech language therapists.  Things to be mindful of and to address; to note patient performance with oral versus nasal breathing……..was there a difference in pt progress or goal attainment?  Can nasal breathing be used as a memory task as well?  If we can habituate nasal breathing, we could facilitate significant changes physiologically and promote brain function that has increased learning potential.

The article Investigation on the Effect of Oral Breathing on Cognitive Activity Using Functional Brain Imaging, “investigated the effect of oral breathing on functional brain activity. It was confirmed that the functional connection decreased significantly during a working memory task in oral breathing rather than nasal breathing. Furthermore, the functional connections of the left cerebellum, and left and right inferior parietal gyrus appeared only during nasal breathing, but not during oral breathing. According to these results, oral breathing can interfere with the efficient performance of working memory. Therefore, brain areas closely related to working memory function were less active during oral breathing, suggesting that prolonged oral breathing could significantly induce impaired cognitive function together with various well-known side effects on the body. These findings also suggest that any solutions for oral breathing should be considered not only for dental care but also for working memory activity.”

What research gets YOU thinking? How has research in one area impacted your treatment in another? Things to think about…..

Dale Gregore
Level 1 Buteyko Educator, medical speech language pathologist with >35 years’ experience; board certification in swallowing; department/ program manager and adjunct professor.

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