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.