A study indicates that the average human can detect at least one trillion distinct scents. Smelling is one of the most fundamental senses of the human body. Smell plays an integral part in many of the normal human body functions. Scientists even believe that smell and memory are very closely linked to each other.
Here is everything you need to know:
How does the sense of smell work?
The human sense of smell is handled in the brain by the ‘olfactory bulb’: a small centre that generates specialised sensory cells for the chemosensory system. This bulb is directly connected to both the amygdala and hippocampus of the brain. Amygdala is the region of the brain that is directly associated with emotional processes. The hippocampus plays a major role in both learning and memory.
Whenever you smell something, the nose and brain work together to sense hundreds of tiny particles at a time. These small particles are then converted into valuable information that we recognise as ‘smell’ or ‘fragrance’.
Can fragrance trigger memories?
Research in 2012 showed that the human body can literally smell the emotions of fear and disgust. Some people suggest that the sense of smell and memory are deeply intertwined. Research shows that this is true, to some extent. We discussed earlier that the olfactory bulb and the hippocampus region of the brain are directly connected to each other.
The brain is an optimising organ that tries to become as efficient as possible. Processing these two facts in your head should help you automatically understand that the sense of smell and smell might be linked very closely. Before we proceed further, we can safely say that fragrances do trigger memories.
How fragrance triggers memories
Find yourself a box of assorted chocolates or sweets that you have eaten at least one time in the past. Close your eyes and randomly choose a single item from the box. Smell it as hard as you can. You will most likely remember the first time you ate that food. This is because even when you are eating something, the taste that you get is also nothing but smell. The brain automatically creates and links memories based on the fragrance of an object.
Research by Dawn Goldworm shared that the sense of smell is developed in the fetus. This sense becomes most developed before the child turns 10 too. This same research shares that smell and emotion are stored in one memory.
The human mind grows like a building. Since the foundation is set by the age of 10 to associate things with smell, this association only grows stronger with time. This is not only common with humans, but also with animals. Various studies show that animals can perform certain tasks when they are exposed to smells that they were previously exposed to while doing those tasks.
We hope that this article has helped you understand more about the sense of smell and how fragrances can trigger memories.