Minty Fresh and Smart?

Peppermint may be more than just a cool treat. This week, some Maryland middle school students were given mint candies with the expectation that it might improve their test scores.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

This week 800 students at Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring, Maryland received mint candies. Not as a reward or for a sweet goodnight, but as a deliberate strategy to improve their test scores. Apparently several researchers have reported that a slight taste and whiff of peppermint can improve concentration.

Brian Raudenbush, for instance, associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, says that athletes who inhale a sniff of peppermint before a game performed better. Peppermint, guys, he said, peppermint, not a sniff of anything else. It'll be several weeks before the result of the Maryland school assessments in reading and math are back and teachers can judge if peppermint sniffing worked.

If peppermint improves concentration, why hand out candies to middle school students? Why not airline pilots and brain surgeons?

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