Getting roses from your significant other or as a present for a special occasion always warms your heart. But it turns out that the smell of roses can do more than remind you that there is someone who loves you. A recent study looked into the connection between smells and our ability to learn and remember new information. The research was conducted in a sleep lab at the German University of Freiburg, and according to it, if we are exposed to certain smells when we sleep or during a study session, it can improve our ability to succeed in exams. That’s right, the bouquet you’re about to water might be your key to ace that midterm.
The experiment was conducted on a group of students that was divided into two classes. All of them had to learn English vocabulary but one group had to do it with scent defusers in the class as well as use scent defusers when they went to sleep. The scent defusers in use were essentially rose-scented incense sticks that they were asked to place on their desks while learning any by their beds as night. Another experiment also had them placing the scented stick on the desk when they were taking their exam. Incredibly, the group of students who smelled the roses did better on their test!
So how does that work?
The hippocampus is a part of the brain which stores new memories, which means it is essential that it operates well when we learn. When information is new like that, it needs to get processed in order to be stored in a different part of our brain to get logged into our long term memory. This process happens when we sleep. Scents are incredibly effective in helping us activate the hippocampus, which means that memories that are tied to certain scents are more powerful and easier to draw on command. This is why connecting the test material with a pleasant smell helped the students do better on the exam.