How Our Sense of Smell Affects Our Memories

Ever noticed that when you smell a certain fragrance, it brings back certain, forgotten memories?

The Science Behind Our Sense of Smell

Our sense of smell starts with the olfactory bulb, which begins inside of the nose and then runs along the bottom of the brain.

This is then linked to the amygdala and hippocampus which are the two areas of the brain that control emotion and memory.

Unlike our other senses of sight, sound and touch which pass through the frontal cortex of the brain before we experience it, this process makes smell completely unique.

We also have around 1,000 different types of smell receptors compared to 4 types of light sensors and 4 types of touch receptors.

Triggering Emotions & Memories

Memories triggered by our olfactory senses are accompanied by specific feelings because of the connection between these two parts of the brain.

So, it is like a domino effect: as soon as a familiar aroma travels up our nose, it will reach the hippocampus which will then trigger emotions in the amygdala.

These emotions are so powerful that you can be transported back to that moment in time and experience the same feelings, the same setting, even brought together with the same people that were involved in the memory.

This link between smell, memory and emotion is stronger than any of the other senses and our olfactory experiences really can dictate our mood.