The Smell of Coffee Alone May Sharpen Your Brain

Is there any beverage with more universal appeal than coffee? (Beverages commonly consumed at the office, we mean.) As a society, we adore it — so much that new research suggests even the scent of coffee can boost our mental performance.

A study released this month by the Stevens Institute of Technology pitted your olfactory senses against the GMAT algebra test. Two groups of business school students took portions of the graduate admissions exam, one in a room that smelled like coffee, the others in an unscented room. Those who took the test in the coffee-scented room actually scored significantly higher than the control group. Not only that, but when interviewed, study participants said they believed they'd be more "physiologically stimulated" while exposed to a coffee aroma.

Our sense of smell has deep connections to brain functions like memory, so it's no surprise that we're learning more about how scent and environment can influence performance and behavior. Consider keeping a small bowl of roasted coffee beans in your work space if you're interested in seeing whether this research works for you. (Perfumeries keep coffee on-hand to clear your scent palates as you test out different fragrances.) It might be cheaper than springing for a cup of java, and less likely to mess with your sleep schedule.

If you're a coffee drinker, of course, don't feel like you should give it up entirely. There's strong evidence that, on a certain level, it could lead to world peace.