Cognitive Enhancement Through Stimulation of the Chemical Senses

Zoladz, Phillip R.; Raudenbush, Bryan
April 2005
North American Journal of Psychology;2005, Vol. 7 Issue 1, p125
Academic Journal
Finding a non-pharmacological adjunct to enhance cognitive processing in humans would be beneficial to numerous individuals. Past research has consistently noted a significant interplay between odors and human behavior; for example, the administration of particular odorants enhances athletic performance, mood, and sleep quality. In addition, odorants have a differential effect on human behavior, dependent upon route of administration (retronasal vs. orthonasal). The following study examined the differential effects of odorants on cognition based upon route of administration. During Phase I, 31 participants completed cognitive tasks on a computer-based program (Impact©) under five "chewing gum" conditions (no gum, flavorless gum, peppermint gum, cinnamon gum, and cherry gum). During Phase II, 39 participants completed the cognitive tasks under four odorant conditions (no odor, peppermint odor, jasmine odor, and cinnamon odor). Results revealed a task-dependent relationship between odors and the enhancement of cognitive processing. Specifically, cinnamon, administered retronasally and orthonasally, improved participants' scores on tasks related to attentional processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory, and visual-motor response speed. Implications are discussed in relation to providing a non-pharmacological adjunct to enhance cognition in the elderly, individuals with test-anxiety, and those with symptoms of dementia.


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