Nasal airflow and brain activity: is there a link?

J Laryngol Otol. 2016 Sep;130(9):794-9. doi: 10.1017/S0022215116008537. Epub 2016 Aug 1.


Background: Over the past few decades, evidence has emerged suggesting that nasal airflow asymmetry and brain asymmetry are linked. The nose exhibits asymmetrical airflow, with the dominant airflow alternating from one nasal passage to the other over a period of hours. Some authors have suggested a correlation between cerebral hemisphere dominance and nostril dominance. Others have proposed an association between rhythmic fluctuations in nasal airflow and corresponding fluctuations in cerebral hemisphere activity. Based on ancient yoga breathing techniques, newer evidence suggests that altering nasal airflow can influence brain activity, with reports of improved cognitive function caused by unilateral forced nostril breathing. It seems that a nasal airflow stimulus may have an activating effect on the brain, as it has also been shown to trigger seizure activity in epileptic patients.

Objectives: This article explores these theories in detail, reviews the evidence, and presents new models linking nasal airflow and brain activity.

Keywords: Airway Resistance; Cerebrum; Functional Laterality; Nose; Ultradian Cycles.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Nasal Cavity / physiology*
  • Nasal Obstruction / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena*