Hey students, want higher test scores? Try studying with a little potpourri or the scent of fresh-baked cookies. Scientists have discovered that our ability to learn actually decreases when the information is paired with a nasty smell.

To test the theory, neurobiologist Rony Paz of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and his colleagues had volunteers listen to tones accompanied by either no other stimuli or immediately followed by an odor — good or bad — delivered through a nose mask.

Later, those same volunteers were asked to listen to pairs of tones and identify whether they were the same or different. The tones that had previously been matched with putrid smells were harder to spot, while the subjects did better at distinguishing those that had been accompanied by pleasant aromas.

Dr. Paz says this sensory phenomena could date back to evolution, as he relates it to sound. “If you’ve previously heard the sound of a lion attacking,” he says, “your survival might depend on a similar noise sounding the same to you.”

Bottom line students, clean your dorm rooms.

[Scientific American]