Smell Triggers Memories

Kalli Matson- 2nd period

Why I Chose This Topic...

I am fascinated with the idea of being able to smell a certain scent and remember someone or something. Personally, when I smell the Classic Chapstick flavor I think of my grandma, when I smell Irish Spring body soap, I think of my grandparent's house. The amount of memories that are surfaced because of a whiff of one smell are endless and show just how powerful smell and memory are linked.

What is Smell and Memory?

Many people ask, how are smell and memory linked? We don't see smells so how could we store that as a memory? Well, whenever someone smells a particular smell it is often linked with a memory of a person, place or thing. It could be a good or bad memory of an event, a parent, grandparent, a store, a house, etc.

The Brain Involvement

When a scent is smell, neurons in the top of the nose send impulses to the brain (olfactory bulb) to detect and link the smells to memories. The piriform cortex work to identify the scent being smelled. Then, the thalamus sends the smell info to the orbitofrontal cortex which then leads to the emotions and memories linked to smell.


Smell Experiment for Kindergarteners

Materials Needed:
1. Items to smell: lemon, orange, wood, perfume, etc.
2. Blindfold
Steps of Experiment:
  1. Identify the item by smell.
  2. Rate the odor (strong, pleasant, neutral, [bad or good for young kids])
  3. Tell about any memories associated with the smells.

Many of the students linked the flowery perfume to their mother, they associated the wood with the playground, and linked the citrus smells with breakfast.

Interesting Stuff

- No two people can smell scents the same way due to different smellprints
- You smell with your brain, not your nose
- Majority of smell memories come from the first ten years of a person's life