German scientists have found that the scent of roses may help in retaining memories formed during the day.
The scientists at the University of Lubeck, led by Jan Born exposed their subjects- medical students- to programmed bursts of rose odors, while they were memorizing cards in a game of concentration and memory. They were then sent off to sleep with electrodes connected to their heads. This was to track the various changes occurring in the brain while sleeping.
The rose scents were continued in timed bursts, via fitted face masks during sleep.
Several tests later the next day, it was seen that in almost all the subjects, their powers of memory were increased to 97 percent, an increase of 15 percent.
According to scientists, the hippocampus region of the brain is like a notepad where the day's events and experiences are 'jotted down' for future filing to permanent storage. These 'files' are located in the neocortex region of the brain and this procedure occurs during deep sleep.
From the experiment, the scent of roses is believed to have activated this process, thereby retaining memories in a more efficient manner.
Olfactory sensing pathways in the brain lead more directly to the hippocampus than visual and auditory ones. That may be why smells can be linked so closely to memory, and may revive forgotten joys, humiliations and other remembrances of things past.
According to Born, who published these findings in the journal Science, the improvements found in the study may help scientists develop memory treatments that target the sleep cycle during which memories are solidified.
The researchers added that smelling odors is not a panacea for developing skills needed to play the piano or to ride a bike, as these activity-related memories don't rely on the hippocampus.
This experiment follows one, by the same author, using electric currents, which were found to have the same effect. Yet, obviously, the scents of roses are a 'softer' method.