The influence of fragrances on brain activity and brain health
Status / StageActive
Dates1 February 2021 -
31 January 2025
Duration (calculated)03 years 11 months
Funder/Grant study pageEPSRC
Contracted CentreUniversity College London
Principal InvestigatorNatalie Gunasekara
WHO CatergoriesUnderstanding Underlying Disease
Disease TypeDementia (Unspecified)
CPEC Review Info
|Status / Stage
|03 years 11 months
|Funder/Grant study page
|University College London
Plain English Summary
fNIRS is a novel brain imaging technique, that allows the collection of brain signals from the cortex using non-invasive, harmless equipment. Compared to EEG, it has higher spatial resolution and much higher resistance to motion artefacts, making it an ideal candidate to study the brain activity in real life environments. fNIRS has been successfully applied in the scientific community to detect brain activity in adults, younger subjects (new-borns and children) and in patients from the neurointensive care unit to the psychiatry ward. The exceptional portability of the system makes it ideal to be used in a wide variety of ages. The above described capacity of fNIRS technology makes it an ideal candidate to investigate the effects of fragrances in brain activity. Is well known and common knowledge that fragrances/smells affect sleep cycle and mood; however, the mechanisms behind these effects and the alterations in brain activity are not well studied. Understanding these mechanisms will allow us to investigate the effect of fragrances in treatments of sleep disorders and mental health issues such as stress.
The impact of this work goes beyond the objectives of this PhD and our proposed developments for using fNIRS technologies and methods to image the brain in naturalistic settings, has the potential to make a significant difference in how and when we can image the brain for both neuroscience and clinical applications. In addition, our research will enable the development of novel data analytics using artificial intelligence (AI) methods allowing us to translate our images and data to clinical information. It is also important to remember that while we directly target the adult population and as our main clinical application of our instrumentation covers sleep and mental disorders, with some adaptations these technologies/methodologies can also be applied in the neonatal and elderly population with brain injury (such as cerebral palsy and stroke) and brain disorders (such as dementia and depression); which will open up a significant new era in neuromonitoring in naturalistic settings in a larger clinical population.
Aims and Objectives:
-The specific objectives are to: improve the fundamental knowledge on the effects that fragrances have on brain activity and how these changes can be detected using fNIRS as a brain imaging technique.
-Two aspects will be specifically studied with fNIRS and these are the link between (i) sleep and fragrances and (ii) stress and fragrances.
Novelty of Research Methodology:
There is currently no knowledge, in the field of neuroscience, on how fragrances and flavours can alter brain activity, as measured via fNIRS, in specific domains as stress and sleep. The current PhD aims at filling this gap with a series of novel, real world experiments that will shed light on the link between fragrances, sleep/stress and fNIRS signals. Novel analysis and data handling techniques are also expected to be developed, contributing to the creation of standards for fNIRS data analysis, currently still missing across the scientific community.
Alignment to EPSRC’s strategies and research areas:
The PhD research scope is within the healthcare technologies theme and covers two main research areas (i) Medical Imaging and (ii) Analytic/Computing Methods (Machine Learning, AI).
Any companies or collaborators involved
The specific objectives are to: improve the fundamental knowledge on the effects that fragrances have on brain activity and how these changes can be detected using fNIRS as a brain imaging technique.Two aspects will be specifically studied with fNIRS and these are the link between (i) sleep and fragrances and (ii) stress and fragrances.