Working memory performance and exposure to pleasant and unpleasant ambient odor: is spatial span special?Int J Neurosci. 2014 Nov; 124(11):806-11.IJ
Sensory influences on working memory (WM) performance were investigated in 86 healthy adults. Participants were exposed to an ambient pleasant odor (lemon), unpleasant odor (machine oil) or no odor during completion of three WM tests from the Wechsler Memory Scale-III: the letter-number sequencing, spatial span and digit span tests. A significant main effect of odor was found for spatial span but no other task: scores were significantly lower in the unpleasant odor condition than the pleasant odor condition. Significant odor × sex interactions were found for the spatial span, digit span and letter-number sequencing tasks: men's spatial span scores were lower in the unpleasant odor condition than in the control condition, and women's scores were significantly better in the pleasant odor condition than in the unpleasant odor condition. The results suggest that ambient odor may impair or facilitate specific types of WM depending on the task, sex of the participant and affective characteristics of the odor.