The Nose Knows

Smell and Memory by Haley Temshiv

Why the Smell?

I chose this topic to learn about what I am missing out on. I have never had a sense of smell, and I have always wanted to know how smelling works. I'm hoping this assignment will teach me why I cannot smell and how my memory is affected by it.

How Does Smell Affect Memory?

In the brain, the olfactory bulb processes smells. The olfactory bulb is right next to the hippocampus, which is where long-term memory is stored. Therefore, when someone smells something, the smell goes right to the memory area of the brain.

A common example of this is sometimes when people smell a food that they ate as a child, they will be reminded of their childhood.

Experiments and Research

A scientist, Catherine Young, made an experiment to see what types of memories are brought up when a person smells something. The volunteers in the experiment had to close their eyes and smell a mystery object. Then they had to describe the smell, guess what it was, and talk about what the smell reminds them about or if any memories come up. The people were able to remember things that had happened about a decade ago, just from smelling something!
Other scientists who have studied smell and memory include Maria Larsson and Donald WIlson.

Smell Disorders

Even though I have never been able to smell, I am pretty sure I don't have a smell disorder since the biggest problem I've had from not smelling is just tasting foods a bit differently. There are actually multiple types of smell disorders.

Hyposmia is not being able to smell as much as a regular-smelling person would. Anosmia is not being able to smell anything. If someone has never been able to smell, they have what is called Congenital Anosmia. Parosmia is when a smell seems to change, and Phantosmia is smelling something that isn't there.

Smelling disorders can lead to health problems from not eating the right foods because of the smell. It can also rarely lead to depression and not being able to smell dangerous things such as a house on fire and chemicals in the house.