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A Pinch of Spice Helps Keep Drivers Alert

Peppermint and cinnamon may improve your ride, study suggests

TUESDAY, April 26, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Here's something for all you drivers that may be even better than that new car smell.

The scent of peppermint or cinnamon in your car may help reduce your frustration, anxiety and fatigue and make you more alert while you're at the wheel, new research contends.

In a study led by Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, participants were exposed to three odor conditions (peppermint, cinnamon, and no odor) during a driving simulation. The odors were added to low-flow oxygen (1.3L/min) and presented to the participants at a rate of 30 seconds every 15 minutes. The participants were then measured for cognitive performance, wakefulness, mood and workload.

"In general, prolonged driving led to increased anger, fatigue, and physical demand, and decreased vigor," Raudenbush said in a prepared statement. "However, fatigue ratings were decreased in the cinnamon condition. Both cinnamon and peppermint administration led to increased ratings of alertness in comparison to the no-odor control condition over the course of the driving scenario."

"Periodic administration of these odors over long-term driving may prove beneficial in maintaining alertness and decreasing highway accidents and fatalities," the researcher concluded.

The study was presented at a recent conference of the Association for Chemical Reception Sciences in Sarasota, Fla.

More Information

The National Safety Council offers advice on defensive driving.

SOURCE: Wheeling Jesuit University, news release, April 25, 2005
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