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Medical Deviated Septum Affecting Cognitive tasks?

  1. May 30, 2012 #1
    I had a deviated septum in my right nostril, I got the surgery (an absolutely horrendous experience because the doctor failed to follow up with advice or after-surgery prescription...)

    Well.. now it seems that I have a deviated septum in my left nostril. I can't breathe through it much, and lately I've been getting headaches on a daily basis.

    Rant aside, does a deviated septum affect cognitive performance? A former psychology professor claimed something along the lines of that breathing through the right nose affects creativity and left nose affects other cognitive tasks.

    Is this true? If so, how does a deviated septum in my left nostril affect my study?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 24, 2012 #2
    Any thoughts?
  4. Jun 24, 2012 #3
    I can't conceive of any possible mechanism by which this would be true. I assume your professor was trying to tie everything into the pop-psych "right for romance, left for logic" notion of brain hemisphere function, which would be a very depressing thing for a professor of psychology to do, given that it's complete nonsense.
  5. Jun 24, 2012 #4


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    After all, we do have a skull which prevents our brains from slipping out through our nose. So if it's supposed to be air hitting the brain when you inhale...
  6. Jun 27, 2012 #5
    Wow. Evo are you saying oxygen intake made uneven could very easily affect the brain?

    I never thought of it like that, and I have given my situation a fair amount of study.

    I have a deviated septum.

    I have had cluster headaches, (These "headaches" are nick-named suicide headaches, many people have killed themselves because of the severity of the pain, plus, one headache comes at the same time everyday. for me it's 4 am, 2-8 weeks twice a year.) for 18 years.

    In the last 6 years, migraines with some of the same qualities like muscle tension, hypersensitivity to, light, sound, smell, stress, and exercise have triggered migraines headaches, weekly. The pain of a cluster headache is incomparable, and not treatable with narcotics in an7y amount. It has also been that the pain makes it impossible to concentrate. One headache can last 24-36 hours. Even when the migraine is shorter, say 2 hours, it leaves me in pain and exhausted. My only defense against the cluster headache is sleep. With the migraines, narcotics will work, but who wants a narcotics habit? The migraines are almost a weekly deal. There is a noticeable drooping in one side of my face. I also have sleep apnea, a CPAP machine gave me some relief, but requires a face mask wore while sleeping, and it only took a couple of times, for my sinuses to plug, me to wake, with the 7 lbs pressure the machine puts on your airways, and eardrums, to produce some very special headaches. I do NOT use the machine anymore.

    What I’m asking is could all or any of my problems be related to my deviated septum?

    They have offered me an operation, but not just to straighten my septum, but also "clean" my sinuses and widen my sinuses. That means "shaving" the sinuses channel. I read that this was horribly painful like Nano-Passion said and in many cases had to be repeatedly done. I have not found exact figures on how often it worked. I thought of it as just another of many attempts, the doctors will try. I have been on so many newer drugs it would make your head spin. Botox, and a spinal tap are others options I have been reluctant to try.

    Cluster headaches and also some times referred to has histamine headaches. I am in the 6th week of them now.

    I had thought as long as I was able to breath through my nose, 95% of the time, my deviated septum was the least of my issues.

    I wonder if the change in air pressure, temperature, and entry location could be the cause of many of my problems. Just as one side is not getting as much air as it should, the other is taking in more to compensate. This would change both pressure and temperature I would think.

    Any ideas on where I could find out more about this?

    I will be calling my neurologist office tomorrow.
  7. Jun 27, 2012 #6


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    No. She's saying exactly the opposite. She's concurring with #9 that any purported correlation is nonsense.

    There's no correlation between air in each nostril and the hemispheres of the brain. We absorb oxygen through our lungs not our noses.

    And even if there were a physical correlation, there's still no cognitive correlation with specific tasks. The model of right=creative left=rational has been debunked.

    However, it's certainly true that the sinuses of the face will have a string connection with headaches.
  8. Jun 27, 2012 #7


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    My wife has a deviated septum - and actually a perforated septum (meaning she can't effectively blow her nose).

    Doctors have repeatedly told her she could get the operation. Or not. 50/50 shot it would work at all.
  9. Jun 27, 2012 #8
    What do you mean 2-8 weeks twice a year?

    I get headaches 4-5 times a week, they are soo annoying! I'm pretty concerned with my usage of prescription so sometimes I try not to take it, but that doesn't help much and it interfered with my daily tasks. Taking mid-day naps eases the tension but it doesn't work consistently enough--=and what if your not sleepy anyways?

    Hmm.. I don't get migraines that often. That is really unfortunate.

    Let me give you a piece of advice when it comes to having deviated septum, don't stress--ever! Anytime I stress, it is absolutely guaranteed that I will get a headache, no doubt about it. Same thing when I'm tense.

    One thing that helps a lot is to make sure that you control your breathing so that you have a calm and periodic rhythm. This REALLY helps when you have a headache, and it actually feels good doing it. It is also really important to completely relax your body, its hard to put into words--but there your body is often tense even if you don't notice it.

    For example, I notice that when I'm in traffic--my facial muscles tend to get tense. When that happens, I have a much higher probability of developing a headache. So I try to relax my facial muscles, and consequently, you feel your brain relaxing as well since you tend to be in a relaxed mind-set when trying to relax.

    If you keep your tension in check throughout the day as I told you, I wager that you would fair much better.

    If I was you I would do the surgery--it would have been much less painful for me if the doctor followed up to give me the damn prescription(nobody will know what I went through without it :( )!! But anyways you will be fine. You would also be surprised how much it helps just from the cleansing of your sinuses.

    Also, buy NeilMaid Sinus-Rinse Starter kit. It is very cheap, and surprisingly helpful.

    Let me know what the neurologist says.

    Edit: P.S. I had to take 2 advils today for my headache and it didn't do much, so I slept--at 8 -.- since I couldn't get anything done. Now I have to stay up late and wake up early for my internship, not fun.

    Really? My doctor never told me that there is only a 50/50 chance that it would work. He just did surgery and that was it. Luckily it worked.
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2012
  10. Jun 30, 2012 #9
    kingofpits how did you make the connection between your sinus problems to cluster headaches. Those are not related. Do you have a lot of sinus infections?
  11. Aug 12, 2012 #10
    i assume davec is no longer a member?

    so nano passion: cluster headaches come in groups, within 20 min of the same time everyday. so at 4 am, for as short as 2 weeks to as long as 8 weeks i will have a headache at 4 am. twice a year, for 18 years now.

    and, in the last 3 years, migraines have come weekly, at times daily. often, 1-2 hours after i lay down, my sinuses plug, and the headache begins. i feel pressure behind my eyes and ears while the muscles start to tighten. i am almost sure the operation will help with this.

    mazinse: it's real easy to get to cognitive tasks being effected. with light, sound, hypersensitivity, all at play, i can't do the things i normally would.
    AND i noticed some small amount of relief holding my tongue against the roof of my mouth, like after eating ice cream to fast. and when you think about it, there is only soft tissue between your airway and brain in places.

    so, at this point i have had the operation, PAINFUL. i have plastic stints that have to be removed next week.
    these headaches have really taken a good part of my life, and i have given a lot of time to research and thought because nothing has been helping.
    i have seen so many doctors, and you wind up back at your primary care doctor when nothing helps. (two of my other options are 28 shots of botox in the head, or spinal tap.)
    i will try to let you know what happens.
  12. Sep 5, 2012 #11
    I can conceive of a mechanism. Air going through a nostril will cool the region of the body near it. So breathing through a particular nostril will lead to a side of the brain being cooler than it otherwise would, and this in principle could affect function. One side of the brain is more cognitive and the other side is more artistic.

    I very much doubt though that the effect would be even close to being large enough to be detectable.
  13. Sep 6, 2012 #12


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    There is no reason to think that a deviated septum would affect mental performance and we don't need to go into overly-speculative hypotheses. With regard to your health problems I sympathise and hope that your recovery is smooth.
  14. Sep 7, 2012 #13
    If your hypothalamus is working, you should be able to cool down by sweating. Forgetting my nose anatomy here, your nose actually warms the air up as it comes in. It's very vascular in there, you know with nose bleeds. The circulation in there outputs a lot of heat.
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