Odor environments in living spaces can influence human physiological and psychological states. To elucidate the effect of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) of wood in living spaces on the modulations of cognitive processing, we built two experimental huts to simulate wooden construction living spaces. One hut was made of cedarwood (Cryptomeria japonica), and the other was made of resin. We used cedarwood and resin, because they are often used as construction materials in Japan. In both huts, we measured the participants’ first positivity in the early visual cortex (P1), the third positivity elicited by voluntary attention (P3b), and the automatic occipital negativity to infrequent visual stimuli in event-related potentials (ERPs), while they performed a visual discrimination task. The VOCs in both huts were measured by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. The concentration of volatile sesquiterpenes was significantly increased in the cedarwood hut. Neither P1 nor P3b was affected by the cedarwood hut. Compared to the resin hut, we observed significantly larger occipital negativities to the infrequent stimuli in the cedarwood hut in the time windows of 280–300 ms at the mid-occipital region. These findings suggest that the increased concentration of volatile sesquiterpenes emitted from cedarwood facilitates the human brain’s response to changes in visual stimuli.
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