It makes sense that you’d want to do everything you can to boost your memory, as having a good one can give you an edge in work and in life. And here’s some good news: Recent findings say it might be as simple as inhaling the scent of rosemary.
Exposing children to the scent of rosemary essential oil can “significantly enhance” their working memory, which helps people hold on to information long enough to use it, and plays an important role in concentration. That’s according to a study from Northumbria University, to be presented at this week’s British Psychological Society Annual Conference. And this isn’t the first time the researchers have found a link between the pungent oil and memory: In a previous study, they found that the scent can enhance cognition in healthy adults.
For the new analysis, 40 children ages 10 and 11 completed tests of mental agility after being randomly assigned to a room either diffused with rosemary oil or with no scent.
Researchers tested each child individually, asking them to play some memory games, and discovered that the children in the rosemary-scented room had significantly higher scores than those in the room that was unscented. And it was a test that asked subjects to remember words that had the greatest score discrepancy.
Researchers say they’re not totally sure why the scent of rosemary has this effect, but theorize that it could be that the smell impacts electrical activity in the brain. And while the study was small, those behind it say the findings indicates the need for a large-scale trial on the impact of rosemary oil and working memory.
Clifford Segil, a neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Yahoo Beauty that any time people stimulate part of the brain that is not often stimulated, it increases the firing of pathways in the brain. “Part of the olfactory pathway overlaps with the limbic system, and anything that stimulates the limbic system is going to stimulate your emotions,” he says, adding that it can further activate your brain, making you more focused in the moment. And rosemary may not be the only scent that can do this, Segil says, noting, “Any type of pleasant scent would possibly help.”
It’s also not just nice aromas that can help you become more mentally sharp: Segil says that any type of mental activity that stimulates your brain in a way you wouldn’t normally can help. For adults who have been out of school for years, for example, he recommends taking ad-hoc classes because “the brain does well with structure.”
Card games like poker can also help stimulate your brain — however, Segil says, it’s important to play sober, since drinking alcohol at the same time counteracts the potentially beneficial effects. Crossword games and those that involve finding numbers or letters can also help give your working memory a boost, he says.
Segil recommends trying to stimulate your brain two to three times a week for maximum benefits. And if you don’t have the time to sit down with a crossword or take a class regularly, try keeping flowers or a sprig of rosemary by your desk — it may wind up doing much more than just freshening the air.
Read more in Yahoo Style + Beauty:
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