Indulge in simple everyday pleasures of life without guilt. Researchers say activities like sipping coffee and listening to your favorite tune not just unwind your mind but also boost your brain power.

The little joys of life strengthen cognitive performance and help the brain in tasks that require concentration and memory, according to the latest study, conducted by researchers from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

The team made the interesting findings by using MINDWATCH, a brain-monitoring technology developed by Professor Rose Faghih, a senior author of the study.

MINDWATCH uses an algorithm to analyze a person's brain and electrodermal activities from data collected through wearable devices. Electrodermal activity is the continuous changes that occur in the electrical properties of the skin in response to stress, typically measured using changes in sweat production.

All participants wore skin-monitoring wristbands and brain-monitoring headbands during the study. They were asked to complete cognitive tests while listening to music, drinking coffee or sniffing perfumes based on their individual preferences. The same study was repeated without any of these stimulants.

The findings from the MINDWATCH algorithm suggest music and coffee made significant brain arousal in the participants and led them into a physiological "state of mind" that improved their working memory. The study also found the two stimulants increased "beta band" brain wave activity associated with increased cognitive performance.

Researchers tested the effect of three types of music: energetic and relaxing music familiar to the participant, and novel AI-generated music based on their tastes. The participants showed their best performance in tests when they listened to AI-generated music. The use of familiar energetic music was more effective compared to relaxed ones.

Among the three types of stimulants, the most pronounced effect on brain power was seen with music, followed by coffee. Perfumes had a modest positive effect.

"The pandemic has impacted the mental well-being of many people across the globe, and now more than ever, there is a need to seamlessly monitor the negative impact of everyday stressors on one's cognitive function," Faghih said.

"Right now MINDWATCH is still under development, but our eventual goal is that it will contribute to the technology that could allow any person to monitor his or her own brain cognitive arousal in real-time, detecting moments of acute stress or cognitive disengagement, for example. At those times, MINDWATCH could 'nudge' a person towards simple and safe interventions—perhaps listening to music—so they could get themselves into a brain state in which they feel better and perform job or school tasks more successfully," Faghih added.