Certain music and smells are being used in classrooms to help children learn. In this fascinating new field of study it has been discovered that the levels of a compound called 1,8-cineole in the blood actually rise when people smell rosemary while performing cognitive functions. Research has shown that 1,8-cineole increases communication between brain cells, which might explain how it improves brain function. It’s perhaps not surprising that smells affect memory, given that the brain’s olfactory bulb is intimately linked to the hippocampus, which deals with learning.
And interestingly it was also found that those who were smelling lavender performed significantly worse in working memory tests, and had impaired reaction times for both memory and attention-based tasks, compared to controls.
Special educational needs students at Sydenham high school in London are being encouraged to study different subjects in the presence of different smells – grapefruit scents for maths, lavender for French and spearmint for history.
The studies regarding sounds that students should be exposed to for maximal learning were less surprising, but still notable. Non lyrical, steady, consistent music played at a low volume was best and it was important to screen out babble and the chatter of other children and all distracting noises. Numerous studies over the past 15 years have found that children attending schools under the flight paths of large airports lag behind in their exam results.
Maybe more and more classrooms should be infused with the scent of rosemary and soft classical music.