Human non-olfactory cognition phase-locked with inhalation

Ofer Perl, Aharon Ravia, Mica Rubinson, Ami Eisen, Timna Soroka, Nofar Mor, Lavi Secundo, Noam Sobel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Olfactory stimulus acquisition is perfectly synchronized with inhalation, which tunes neuronal ensembles for incoming information. Because olfaction is an ancient sensory system that provided a template for brain evolution, we hypothesized that this link persisted, and therefore nasal inhalations may also tune the brain for acquisition of non-olfactory information. To test this, we measured nasal airflow and electroencephalography during various non-olfactory cognitive tasks. We observed that participants spontaneously inhale at non-olfactory cognitive task onset and that such inhalations shift brain functional network architecture. Concentrating on visuospatial perception, we observed that nasal inhalation drove increased task-related brain activity in specific task-related brain regions and resulted in improved performance accuracy in the visuospatial task. Thus, mental processes with no link to olfaction are nevertheless phase-locked with nasal inhalation, consistent with the notion of an olfaction-based template in the evolution of human brain function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-512
Number of pages12
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019


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