Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Both Nostrils Engage!

Stop for a minute and take a few breaths.

Which nostril was more dominant, the right or the left?

Research has shown that our breathing is deeply connected with our brain function. When we are engaging the left or analytical side of the brain, we tend to breathe more through our right nostril. When we're engaging with more creative activities, like listening to music, our left nostril dominates.

When you write, are you using your left or right nostril? Are you being more analytical or more creative? Are you able to do both?


  1. I can't ell which nostril is dominant. When I clasp my hands, my left thumb is on top, so I believe that makes me right-brained. Although I could probably dig up quick evidence that my brain is certainly not right, but I digress...

  2. And here I thought it was my allergies and sinuses that make me a left nostril gal! ;)
    The good news is your post is making me take deep breaths--always good for my creativity. *waves enthusiastically to Davin*

  3. Oh for the love of all insanity...

    *Blink* Since when am I logical and analytical? This isn't going to be a good writing day is it? (Hugs)Indigo

  4. As if I didn't have enough to worry about when I write!! Now I have to figure out which nostril I'm using more??? Gee, thanks for that little tidbit of information . . . that just might send me over the edge, kind of like when Linus was aware of his tongue! Ha!

  5. Rick, apparently we're switching nostrils several times a day depending on what activity we're doing. So, in that sense, it's not exactly like being right-brain or left-brain dominant. I realize I'm using my right nostril more most of the time, but when I wake up in the morning I use my left.

    Tricia, that's a very good point! Yes, breathing is so important. I never understood that until I took some free yoga classes while I was in graduate school. Such a stress reliever.

    Indigo, maybe today is best left for copyediting? :)

    Scott, I had to look that one up. It's great! And, I totally get it. Sometimes my left pinky feels too close to my left ring finger and it TOTALLY ANNOYS ME!

  6. Ummm, I can't tell, but it seems that I mostly use my right whenever I'm doing anything. I knew I was unbalanced!

  7. Davin, that answer depends entirely on what mind set I'm in and how much wine I had before I sit down to write.

  8. Dang. I'm going to need some tape to get through these revisions!

  9. I've been told I'm "whole-brained", which means instead of having one side dominant like most people, I use both sides fairly equally depending on what I'm doing.

    That said, I can definitely feel a shift in my thinking depending on whether I'm drafting/writing or editing. When I'm editing, nothing creative really matters - the analytical side of my brain takes over to a pretty good extreme. When I'm drafting, if I let my analytical side show up, it takes me *forever* just to write a paragraph because my creative side is muffled. If I turn off the analytics, I can race through several paragraphs in the space of 15 minutes or so.

    I'm still trying to figure out how to "trigger" which side of my thinking I want to use at any give time...but, can probably guess how that's going... ;-)

    Interestingly, when I started reading this post, I did as you said and was definitely breathing more through my left nostril - creative reading. I tried it again just now, and my breathing is about evenly apparently, I'm mid-switch? LOL

  10. I'm a mouth breather. So what does that say about me?

  11. That's just weird. How do you even tell?

    And that whole hand-clasping thing never tells me the truth. There's the one where whatever pinky is on the outside is the hand you write with, but my right pinky always goes on the inside. Weird.

    I swear "science" and "research" live to contradict themselves at every turn.

  12. What happens if you have a deviated septum and one side is naturally more dominant? Maybe I'm such a ruthless critic (of my own work and that of others) because my left nostril doesn't work all that well. Huh...

  13. Oh for goodness sake! The imagery! Someone's gonna flare their nostrils in my story today.

    I have no idea which nostril dominates at what time. The only time I am aware of that is when one or the other is stuffed from allergies.

    Flare 'em, folks. Flare 'em good.

  14. What happens if you have a stuffy nose?

  15. left. i guess this explains why i never get organized.

  16. wow! I just tried it that it is so weird...because it's true eck!

  17. Wow, I can't believe so many people can't tell. To me, it's obvious when I take a breath, and it has been switching on me throughout the day.

    Michelle, hopefully this is switching throughout the day so you aren't unbalanced. LOL, I learned this from going to that "boring" seminar I was telling you about.

    Crimey, that makes sense. I'm sure I end up doing both as well. I just never thought to pay attention before.

    Amy, just take slow and steady breaths. Revisions are hard enough as it is. :P

    Jamie, maybe you weren't mid-switch. If you're equal brained, maybe you just regularly breathe through both nostrils. I think that was the key, based on the source of this weird bit of information I got.

    Chuck, as long as you're not also a bottom feeder, I think we're okay.

    Stephanie, In defense of science I'd say that this might only be the case for some people. As with most biological science, we have to account for different types of wiring and other random fluctuations. Maybe we need some statistic, but I REFUSE to get into that.

    Simon, maybe this is a permanent handicap you're just going to have to deal with. :P

    Yat-Yee, My nostrils are flared as I am typing this.

    Martin, Take two of these and call me in the morning.

    Annalise, I'm never organized either. Well, I shouldn't say never. I spent the last four days getting organized, so at the moment I'm doing quite well.

    xoxo, I was surprised that this was true for me too. I actually heard about it from a panel of neurobiologists and psychiatrists, so I think the source was good.

  18. Ugh, I have allergies, but this was the most hilarious factoid I've head in a while. I'll have to pay closer attention once I can breathe again. ;)

  19. I'm chronically congested so I guess I'm brainless.

    Oh, on a completely unrelated note, what do you guys think of the proposed spelling change? Gullible is now to spelled: "Gullable".

  20. Uh, colds and allergies play a far greater role in determining which nostril gets more use than my activities do.
    However, other right brain/left brain tests show that I tend to be about equal in most activities.

  21. And, actually, unless part of my nose is plugged up, I breathe through both nostrils at the same time. I find it rather amusing that some of you say you don't. Assuming the nasal passageways are unobstructed, how could you possibly NOT breathe through both nostrils at the same time?

  22. Andrew: Nice new userpic! And did you know that "gullible" isn't actually an English word? You won't find it in most dictionaries.

  23. Ha - how interesting. I'd never heard that!

  24. I'm so left nostril (at least reading this). I'll have to check it out later to see if I ever rank in the analytical category.

  25. Davin, Davin, Davin...

    Where the heck do you come up with these ideas? :)

    Yeah, I'm in the camp of people who can't tell. I really did try. I do admit though that the possibility of all this being true is interesting. See, you really can learn something new each day.

  26. Okay, okay, let me start by saying that I got this information on a panel seminar I went to here at UCLA. The speakers included one expert on meditation, a clinical professor of psychiatry, and the CEO of the UCLA Hospital System.

    This morning, because there were so many skeptics, I did a literature search and found some peer-reviewed articles on the topic. Here are a couple that I skimmed for confirmation:

    "EEG changes during forced alternate nostril breathing" by Stancak and Kuna in Int. J. Psychophysiology, 1994 Oct; 18(1):75-9

    "Breathing through a particular nostril can alter metabolism and autonomic activities" by Telles et al. in Indian J. Physiol. Pharmacol. 1994 Apr; 38(2):133-7

  27. thank you sri sri malasarn. ;)

  28. I'm not sure I've earned either of my sris, but thank you. :)

  29. Just did a quick lit search. "The Effects of Unilateral Forced Nostril Breathing on Cognitive Performance " (1993) found that left nostril breathing (through yoga training) improved spatial processing (a right hemisphere process). Couldn't find any papers that mention the converse: brain state -> nostril breathing, but it may just not have showed up in the first page of google scholar.

  30. Thanks, Livia! I'm a bit frustrated because I don't have access to a lot of the journals that apparently discuss this. I can only see the abstracts. This was the best I could do:

    "Recent studies using acoustic rhinometry have demonstrated that the cycle is present in some form in the majority of adults, in children as young as 3 years, and that it persists after cessation of nasal airflow. It may, however, be overridden or modulated by many environmental and pathological situations. "

    Nasal physiology: neurochemical receptors, nasal cycle, and ciliary action. (1996)

    I found some other things that seemed to hint that the brain can control nasal cycling, but I can't get access to any of them--well, at least during the 20 minutes I've tried just now.

  31. Given that I write left-handed, I wonder if this theory applies to writing as well.

    BTW, I love your blog and hope you find a spare minute to check out mine. I'm rather new to the blogging world, so any feedback or comments are greatly appreciated!

    Have a wonderful week! Tory


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