lavender, aroma

Pleasant Odors Used to Improve Memory Performance in Older Adults Interview with:

Michael Leon, Professor emeritusDepartment of Neurobiology and Behavior Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders University of California Irvine

Prof. Leon

Michael Leon, Professor emeritusDepartment of Neurobiology and BehaviorCenter for the Neurobiology of Learning and MemoryInstitute for Memory Impairments and Neurological DisordersUniversity of California Irvine What is the background for this study?  What types of aromas were employed?

Response: The olfactory system is the only sense to have a direct “superhighway” access to the memory centers of the brain. The other senses can contribute to the health of the memory centers, but they have to take the brain’s “side streets” to get there and consequently have much less impact on the health of those centers.

If there is olfactory loss for any reason, the memory centers start to deteriorate. Stimulation of those memory centers with odors allows those centers to allow for better memory.

We used naturally occurring pleasant odors: rose, orange, eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint, rosemary, and lavender. What are the main findings?

Response:   We found that older adults given olfactory enrichment, which is exposure to multiple odors on a regular basis for 6 months had their performance memory test that was 226% better than a similar group of older adults who had not received such enrichment.

To my knowledge, that level of improvement is far greater than anything that has been reported for healthy older adults. We also found a critical memory pathway in their brains improved to a similar extent relative to unenriched older adult. What should readers take away from your report?

Response:  The health of your brain depends on having  sufficient odor stimulation. What recommendations do you have for future research as a results of this study?

Response: We will be studying the effects of olfactory enrichment on Alzheimer’s disease and will be using our new device (see below) to see if more olfactory stimulation will further enhance memory in older adults. Is there anything else you would like to add? Any disclosures?

Response:  We will be offering Memory Air, a device that blows 40 odors sequentially at you while you sleep by January. If your readers are interested in being notified when it will be available, they can sign up at: (


Cynthia C. Woo, Blake Miranda, Mithra Sathishkumar, Farideh Dehkordi-Vakil, Michael A. Yassa, Michael Leon. Overnight olfactory enrichment using an odorant diffuser improves memory and modifies the uncinate fasciculus in older adults. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 2023; 17 DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2023.1200448

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Last Updated on August 7, 2023 by Marie Benz