A picture is worth a thousand words, and a whiff of certain scents is worth some major memories.
A recent study conducted by the UCI Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory has found that drifting off while smelling certain natural oils could help boost memory.
The study, published by the University of California, Irvine, found participants who kept particular fragrances in their bedrooms, for two hours every night for six months, had better memories compared to those who didn’t.
Neuroscientists found a 226% increase in cognitive capacity compared to the control group, according to a press release from UCI.
The authors of the study, which was published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, say their findings could establish a definite link between smell and memory, which could pave the way for a non-invasive method of strengthening memory and potentially deterring dementia.
Researchers looked at 46 individuals between the ages of 60 and 85 who had no problems with their memory.
The subjects were then given seven cartridges, each containing a different natural oil, along with a diffuser.
Roughly half of the group (20 people) were given “full-strength” cartridges of essential oils, which smelled of lavender, rose, orange, eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint and rosemary.
The remaining 23 participants, the control group, were given the oils in small amounts.
Each night before going to bed, participants put a different cartridge into their diffuser, which activated for two hours as they slept.
“By making it possible for people to experience the odors while sleeping, we eliminated the need to set aside time for this during waking hours every day,” lead researcher Cynthia Woo explained in a UCI news release.
Once the study was concluded, all participants were administered a series of tests, including the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, which assesses verbal learning and memory according to a person’s ability to recall words from a list.
Images taken of the participants’ brains after the study found those who had received the “full strength” cartilages had better function in a brain pathway called the left uncinate fasciculus, known to worsen with age.
“The reality is that over the age of 60, the olfactory sense and cognition starts to fall off a cliff,” said Michael Leon, professor of neurobiology & behavior and a CNLM fellow. “But it’s not realistic to think people with cognitive impairment could open, sniff and close 80 odorant bottles daily. This would be difficult even for those without dementia.”
Participants also reported sleeping better.
Researchers noted that scientists have previously been aware of the impact that smells can have on neurological and psychiatric diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia and alcoholism.
“Researchers have previously found that exposing people with moderate dementia to up to 40 different odors twice a day over a period of time boosted their memories and language skills, eased depression and improved their olfactory capacities,” UCI’s press release noted.
A product based on the study results and intended for home use is expected to be released later this year.