NOSE-TALGIA: How simple inhalation leads to cognitive enhancement

Nature has rendered us with five windows to the world. It is through these five windows that we envision the world as it seems. Popularly called the five senses, they are primal to the very existence of the human race. One of these underexplored windows is that of our sense of smell. The Egyptian queens seized the virtue of smell to ward off unwanted company by exposing them to  poisonous scents, the Chinese used it to make ‘incense clocks’- a time keeping device and the number of disasters that have been avoided because of that fishy ‘smoke smell’ are countless! That was, and more importantly, is the strength of olfaction. History tells us that fragrances have more to do than just pleasing the nostrils. Yet the wonders of the most basic and ever ongoing process of breathing haven’t been leveraged to their full potential.  What happens when a thinker looks through a “window”, i.e. when the power of ‘smell’ and ‘thought’ combine? It calls for the vast world of Aromatherapy. The underlying principle of this practise is that the inhalation of certain odours triggers the activation of specific brain areas. This manifests in the form of engaging and subsequent enhancing of brain processes that encompass cognition. The one thing that’s constant throughout our lives is breath. We are invariably taking in the air around us. What if we empower this ubiquitous form of matter to render us better mental health? Think about it. As compared to other methods of cognitive enhancement, this would need hardly any paraphernalia, except for our respiratory system! It eliminates the need to move out of our natural environments and since it is basically through the air, its benefits can be reaped by one and all.

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