Expectancy of stress-reducing aromatherapy effect and performance on a stress-sensitive cognitive task

Irina Chamine, Barry Oken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective. Stress-reducing therapies help maintain cognitive performance during stress. Aromatherapy is popular for stress reduction, but its effectiveness and mechanism are unclear. This study examined stress-reducing effects of aromatherapy on cognitive function using the go/no-go (GNG) task performance and event related potentials (ERP) components sensitive to stress. The study also assessed the importance of expectancy in aromatherapy actions. Methods. 81 adults were randomized to 3 aroma groups (active experimental, detectable, and undetectable placebo) and 2 prime subgroups (prime suggesting stress-reducing aroma effects or no-prime). GNG performance, ERPs, subjective expected aroma effects, and stress ratings were assessed at baseline and poststress. Results. No specific aroma effects on stress or cognition were observed. However, regardless of experienced aroma, people receiving a prime displayed faster poststress median reaction times than those receiving no prime. A significant interaction for N200 amplitude indicated divergent ERP patterns between baseline and poststress for go and no-go stimuli depending on the prime subgroup. Furthermore, trends for beneficial prime effects were shown on poststress no-go N200/P300 latencies and N200 amplitude. Conclusion. While there were no aroma-specific effects on stress or cognition, these results highlight the role of expectancy for poststress response inhibition and attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number419812
JournalEvidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume2015
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

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Aromatherapy
Cognition
Evoked Potentials
Task Performance and Analysis
Reaction Time
Placebos
Therapeutics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine

Cite this

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title = "Expectancy of stress-reducing aromatherapy effect and performance on a stress-sensitive cognitive task",
abstract = "Objective. Stress-reducing therapies help maintain cognitive performance during stress. Aromatherapy is popular for stress reduction, but its effectiveness and mechanism are unclear. This study examined stress-reducing effects of aromatherapy on cognitive function using the go/no-go (GNG) task performance and event related potentials (ERP) components sensitive to stress. The study also assessed the importance of expectancy in aromatherapy actions. Methods. 81 adults were randomized to 3 aroma groups (active experimental, detectable, and undetectable placebo) and 2 prime subgroups (prime suggesting stress-reducing aroma effects or no-prime). GNG performance, ERPs, subjective expected aroma effects, and stress ratings were assessed at baseline and poststress. Results. No specific aroma effects on stress or cognition were observed. However, regardless of experienced aroma, people receiving a prime displayed faster poststress median reaction times than those receiving no prime. A significant interaction for N200 amplitude indicated divergent ERP patterns between baseline and poststress for go and no-go stimuli depending on the prime subgroup. Furthermore, trends for beneficial prime effects were shown on poststress no-go N200/P300 latencies and N200 amplitude. Conclusion. While there were no aroma-specific effects on stress or cognition, these results highlight the role of expectancy for poststress response inhibition and attention.",
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AB - Objective. Stress-reducing therapies help maintain cognitive performance during stress. Aromatherapy is popular for stress reduction, but its effectiveness and mechanism are unclear. This study examined stress-reducing effects of aromatherapy on cognitive function using the go/no-go (GNG) task performance and event related potentials (ERP) components sensitive to stress. The study also assessed the importance of expectancy in aromatherapy actions. Methods. 81 adults were randomized to 3 aroma groups (active experimental, detectable, and undetectable placebo) and 2 prime subgroups (prime suggesting stress-reducing aroma effects or no-prime). GNG performance, ERPs, subjective expected aroma effects, and stress ratings were assessed at baseline and poststress. Results. No specific aroma effects on stress or cognition were observed. However, regardless of experienced aroma, people receiving a prime displayed faster poststress median reaction times than those receiving no prime. A significant interaction for N200 amplitude indicated divergent ERP patterns between baseline and poststress for go and no-go stimuli depending on the prime subgroup. Furthermore, trends for beneficial prime effects were shown on poststress no-go N200/P300 latencies and N200 amplitude. Conclusion. While there were no aroma-specific effects on stress or cognition, these results highlight the role of expectancy for poststress response inhibition and attention.

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