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A new study shows being exposed to different smells could help improve learning and memory in older adults—by more than 200 percent!
This is not the first study to show that smells can help with memory, but previous studies have required a lot of time and effort by the participants. This time, neuroscientists at the University of California, Irvine wanted to make things easier for people so they could develop a consistent behavior.
Participants were given a diffuser with seven different scents to use at night while they were sleeping. Each night, the participants used a different scent for two hours while they were sleeping. Over a six-month period, people in the enriched group saw a 226% improvement in verbal learning and memory when compared to the other participants.
People in the enriched group received full-strength cartridges with the selected scents, while those in the control group were given the oils in tiny amounts. The scents used were rose, orange, eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint, rosemary, and lavender. The research project was conducted through the UCI Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory (CNLM).
“The olfactory sense has the special privilege of being directly connected to the brain’s memory circuits,” said Michael Yassa, a professor and the director of CNLM, who served as collaborating investigator. “Everyone has experienced how powerful aromas are in evoking recollections, even from very long ago. However, unlike with vision changes that we treat with glasses and hearing aids for hearing impairment, there has been no intervention for the loss of smell.”
Researchers are hoping to change that in the future. This was a small study, involving only 43 people. The people in the study were men and women between the ages of 60 and 85, with no memory issues. This means that more research is needed, but it’s certainly promising news in the meantime!
“The idea is that it will keep the memory centers of your brain in good condition throughout life and perhaps prevent memory loss older in life,” said Principal INVESTIGATOR Dr. Michael Leon, a neurobiologist and professor emeritus at UC Irvine.
Stolen van Gogh Painting Has Been Returned
A stolen Vincent van Gogh painting has been returned to a Dutch museum—after being found by a man known as the Indiana Jones of the Art World!
The painting is called “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring” or simply “Spring Garden,” and it was painted in 1884. It was on display at the Singer Laren Museum when it was stolen on March 30, 2020, van Gogh’s birthday. The museum was closed at the time due to the COVID-19 pandemic when a masked thief smashed through two glass doors with a sledgehammer and left with the painting. While the thieves have been arrested and convicted, the painting remained missing.
Arthur Brand, a private Dutch art detective, spent the last three and a half years working with police and looking for the painting. He received numerous tips during his search. The painting was finally returned when an anonymous tipster delivered it to Brand’s home, covered in bubble wrap and tucked in an Ikea bag! The painting did suffer some damage in the last few years, but the general manager of the Singer Laren Museum said he believes the damage can be repaired.
The man ULTIMATELY responsible for the painting’s return has received almost as much attention as the painting itself. Brand has built a reputation for himself by working between the worlds of police, insurance companies, art thieves, and forgers. He first got a taste for treasure hunting as an exchange student li ving in southern Spain.
“I decided that my future should be marked by investigating the past,” Brand said during a 2015 TED talk.
Like Indiana Jones, Brand has a day job—working as a traditional art consultant. Brand said he usually takes on these investigations on his own time and expense, and that a typical case can take him around eight years to crack! Brand estimates that he’s helped return dozens of stolen pieces of artwork totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, including paintings by Salvador Dali and Picasso.