Does Scent Boost Memory Consolidation?

Photo by Živa Trajbarič from Pexels

Memory is an important asset to humans all over the world. We strive to remember every little detail in certain situations. For some, this is not a difficult task, but other people have difficulty remembering even the simplest of things. This has created the goal of trying to find factors that will help ensure that the mind is able to store memories. A factor that was recently confirmed is external cues, mainly scents.

In a study published in Current Biology by scientists from Tel Aviv University and Weizmann Insitute of Science, participants were asked to memorize locations of words that were shown to them on either the left or right sides a computer screen. While being shown the words, the participants were exposed to the scent of roses. Once shown the words, the participants were tested on the locations of them and then proceeded to take a nap at the lab.

While napping, researchers administered scents of roses again to one nostril of the participants. Doing so was gave researchers the ability to reactivate and boost the memories that are stored in certain parts of the brain’s hemisphere.

Through EEGs, the researchers were able to see that the delivery of scent through one nostril produced stronger waves of activity of that side of the brain versus the side that did not receive the scent.

After the patients woke up, they were once again tested on the locations of the words. This revealed a significant improvement in their memory for the words that were presented on the side of the brain affected by the smell.

Ella Bar, the PhD student who led the study, stated: “Our findings emphasize that the memory consolidation process can be amplified by external cues such as scents, By using the special organization of the olfactory pathways, memories can be manipulated in a local manner on one side of the brain. Beyond promoting basic scientific understanding, we hope that in the future this method may also have clinical applications.”

Click here to read more about the study.

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