“We showed that the supportive effect of fragrances works very reliably in everyday life and can be used in a targeted way,” the lead researchers, Dr. Jurgen Kornmeier said.
One of the authors of the study Franziska Neumann conducted several experiments with a group of 54 students belonging to two classes of grade 6. The participants were asked to place rose-scented incense sticks on their desks while learning English vocabulary and were also asked to put a stick at the table next to their bed.
In another test, the participants were asked to add incense sticks on the table next to them during the vocabulary test. The results were then compared with the results where no incense sticks were used in one or more phases.
“The students showed a significant increase in learning success by about 30 percent if the incense sticks were used during both the learning and sleeping phases,” said Neumann.
The results also suggested that additional use of incense sticks during the vocabulary test promotes memory.
“One particular finding beyond the seminal initial study was, that the fragrance also works when it is present all night. This makes the findings suitable for everyday use,” says Kornmeier.
Earlier studies assumed that the fragrance needs to be present only during a particularly sensitive sleeping phase. As this sleep phase needs to be determined by an effortful measurement of brain activity by means of an electroencephalogram (EEG) in the sleep laboratory, this finding was not suitable for everyday use.
“Our study shows that we can make learning during sleep easier. And who would have thought that our nose could help considerably in this,” says Kornmeier.