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Rosemary aroma 'can improve memory performance among schoolchildren'

08/05/2017 Joanna

Teachers could improve the memory performance of their students with the simple application of a rosemary scent, according to new research.

A Northumbria University study has offered evidence that exposure to the aroma of rosemary essential oil can significantly enhance working memory in children, a finding that builds on the university's previous discovery of the benefits this approach can offer for adults.

In order to test whether a similar effect could be delivered for school-age children in classroom settings, researchers assigned a group of 40 children aged ten to 11 to take part in a class-based test encompassing a range of mental tasks, with some located in a room that had rosemary oil diffused inside it for ten minutes, while the remainder were based in a room with no scent.

Children in the aroma room were shown to achieve significantly higher scores in the memory games than those in the non-scented room, with the greatest difference in scores observed for a test to recall a series of words.

This research, presented at the British Psychological Society annual conference in Brighton, was not able to quantify exactly why rosemary has this effect, but the scientists hypothesise that it could be that aromas affect electrical activity in the brain in a way that benefits the working memory.

An alternative explanation is that pharmacologically active compounds can be absorbed more readily when the person has been exposed to rosemary.

Dr Mark Moss of Northumbria University said: "We do know that poor working memory is related to poor academic performance, and these findings offer a possible cost-effective and simple intervention to improve academic performance in children. The time is ripe for large-scale trials of aroma application in education settings."

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