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A Breathtaking Report on Learning

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News from the Department of Unusual Scholarship: A West Virginia researcher probing the little-examined relationship between breathing and learning has found that in most classroom situations, shallow is better.

Allan Marangoni, director of the respiratory-therapy program at Wheeling Jesuit College, conducted a two-year study of the rate at which students breathe in normal class settings and before tests.

The results: those who breathed less than average generally received better grades. This may be so, Mr. Marangoni ventures, because shallow breathing causes more blood to flow to the brain and ears, increasing concentration and hearing acuity. Shallow breathing is also a sign of relaxation, he notes.

But a further finding--that respiration varied among classes, depending on the level of stress--led the researcher to postulate that too much easy breathing might be a bad thing. Students in a remedial English class, he found, breathed only half as rapidly as those in an anatomy class.

"It makes me wonder if part of the problem of remedial English students is that they are too relaxed," Mr. Marangoni says. "They need to respond to a certain level of anxiety to learn."

The study's findings are scheduled for publication in a forthcoming issue of the Allied Health Journal.--kg

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