National / Science & Health

Kagawa team finds incense helps students relax and concentrate

Kyodo

Incense has been scientifically proven to make people relax and concentrate on tasks, a team of Japanese researchers said, adding that the findings could be used to help keep drivers alert behind the wheel.

In a study announced earlier in December at a meeting of the Shikoku-Chugoku regional chapter of the Japan Ergonomics Society, the researchers, headed by professor Keisuke Suzuki of Kagawa University, surveyed the reaction of eight students of the university who smelled the Japanese incense.

Their electrocardiography data showed that, when exposed to incense, the sympathetic nervous systems of six of the eight test participants became less active, suggesting they were freed from tension and stress. On the other hand, while they were smelling incense, the parasympathetic nervous systems of seven of the eight participants were activated, suggesting they were more relaxed.

Another experiment showed that the eight students were 15 percent more productive on average in solving simple mathematical tasks when they were smelling incense, compared to the time when they were not. Their brain waves while at the math tasks also showed they were more focused when exposed to incense smells compared to the time when they were not.

“This could potentially lead to research on a wider use of incense in our life,” Suzuki said. “For example, we could keep drivers focused while they are driving.”

Suzuki added that he will try to confirm the results with a larger number of participants.