Research carried out at the Human Cognitive Neuroscience unit at the University of Northumbria, have discovered that mental performance can be greatly improved by inhaling a shot of oxygen.
Our brains only account for 2% of our body weight however it consumes the most energy (20-30%) out of all the organs but yet it cannot store very much energy and relies on a constant supply via the bloodstream.
In the tests students were given a one-minute blast of oxygen after being asked to remember a list of words. They remembered more words than those who didn’t take any additional oxygen. Other students took oxygen whilst they were playing the higher levels of Tetrix, a computer game and it was found that they performed much better compared to students who didn’t take any additional oxygen.
It would appear that additional oxygen blasts can aid in the brain performing at an increased level while it is attempting more demanding tasks.
Dr Sholey adds; “Even the most esoteric brain functions obey biological rules. By tweaking fuel availability to the brain, simply by throwing a bit more fuel on to the fire, you can improve cognitive function to some degree.”
Cognitive improvement has been recorded in patients who use oxygen therapy at home but can also be linked to the research that has been carried out that suggests exercise will make you smarter. Exercise will improve your cardiovascular system which will in turn increase the amount of oxygen being pumper round the body. The brain relies on the bloodstream for it’s oxygen supply and therefore will receive the optimal amount of oxygen possible if we are at our fittest. More fuel means more energy, which results in improved brain function.
However there is also research and studies that suggest that short periods of hypoxia (oxygen deficiency) also aids in increasing and improving oxygenation levels in the body and brain and could also aid in improving brain function ability. It is thought to be the reason why so many people who live in mountainous regions (where due to the altitude the oxygen levels in the air are a lot lower) live a lot longer. It is thought that a temporary, brief state of hypoxia causes reserve capillaries to open up, increase the amount of erythrocytes in the blood, increase the amount of circulating blood and increase blood supply to tissues. It is believed to improve your mood, immunity and metabolism as well as mental and physical capabilities. The idea was tested via a mask that alternated between a gaseous mixture containing normal oxygen levels and one that contained a much lower level. A similar affect can be carried out by ourselves easily by adjusting our breathing patterns and letting out a very long exhale, which will create a temporary hypoxic state.
References: http://www.theguardian.com and http://www.intellectbreathing.com