The impact of a rosemary containing drink on event-related potential neural markers of sustained attention

Leigh Martin Riby, Sheridan Edwards, Heather Mcdonald, Mark Moss*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


Research suggests that the ingestion or aroma of rosemary enhances cognitive ability in both rodents and humans. However, how rosemary facilitates cognition and the precise therapeutic impacts on information processing remains unclear.

This pilot study used the temporal precision of event-related potentials (ERPs) to examine the cognitive-enhancing benefits of a rosemary drink. Neural markers of sustained attention were used as indices to explore whether rosemary facilitates concentration in general or the allocation of resources to task-relevant information only.

Study design and methods
In a between-subject design (rosemary vs water control drink), 48 adults performed a 3-stimulus visual oddball task. Participants differentiated between rare target stimuli (index of task-relevant attentional processes; P3b ERP) embedded in a train of frequent stimuli. The presentation of an infrequent novel stimulus was also included (index of task-irrelevant stimulus processing; P3a ERP). Throughout the session, electroencephalograms (EEG) were collected and time-locked to the presentation of the target (P3b) and novel (P3a) stimulus types.

The primary analyses revealed facilitation of the P3a in particular with a medium Cohen’s effect size reported. The investigation of the P3b component, although less reliable, also had a medium effect. The subsidiary consideration of the association between behaviour and the ERPs provided a further level of explanation regarding the therapeutic effect of rosemary on cognition. Indeed, the pattern of associations was suggestive of strategy differences during the performance of the task across the treatment group., although these data should be treated with caution.

These pilot data provide critical insights into the utility of rosemary to facilitate different aspects of attention. In particular, data are consistent with rosemary providing additional attentional resources to enhance the processing of stimuli we encounter, irrespective of task relevance. Indeed, the enhancement of both P3a and P3b components following rosemary administration may indicate that the herb enhances the processing of all stimuli in the environment. We argue for the use of both behavioural and EEG methods to explore the therapeutic effects of herbal compounds.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0286113
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023

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