Breathing and brainwaves
Dr. Clayton Dickson
University of Alberta
Undergraduate grant in 2013
None – this was a basic science study to learn more about how the brain works!
About the researcher
Undergraduate student at the University of Alberta
Sleep is a very important time for our brains. While you may not feel like you’re doing a lot while resting in your bed, your brain is hard at work trying to take all of the new memories you made during the day and consolidate them so that you don’t forget them when you wake up. But what if you could influence how your brain retained memories? Many of us would like to really remember how good that ice cream Sunday was, or forget about the time you word vomited all over your secret crush. Since we know our breath has a huge impact on our brains, this study tried to see if breathing could be used to change how our brains consolidated memories.
This study looked at brain activity during sleeping rats and tried to find a correlation between brainwaves in the hippocampus (an important brain structure for memory) and the rats’ breathing.
Unfortunately, this study didn’t find such a correlation, but this is important for scientists to know. Even when a neuroscientist has an idea that wasn’t correct, they still learn more about the brain (in this case what it doesn’t do), and can try out other ideas based on this new knowledge.
As a basic science study, this project tried to learn about how our brain works without directly trying to cure a disorder. Future treatment ideas can be inspired by such results though. For example, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder really boils down to memories that people can’t seem to forget. The findings from this study can inform how one might go about trying to change the way the brain stores memories, to help people move past those traumatic experiences.