Smells Ring Bells

By: Drew Girdley

Smell & Memory

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  • You actually smell with your brain, not your nose, as some people assume
  • Your nose contains 10 million smell receptors, which can distinguish 10 trillion distinct scents
  • Humans have 350 functional olfactory receptor genes

Why I Chose This Topic

I chose this topic because I find it very intriguing how certain scents can trigger a certain memory. I want to figure out why this happens naturally within our body without us registering the fact that this is even taking place within us.

What is it?

A smell can bring on a flood of memories. This happens because the olfactory bulb is a part of the brain's limbic system, an area very close to the hippocampus (associated with learning and memory).
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The Brain

Incoming smells first pass through the olfactory bulb, starting in the nose and runs all the way up to the bottom of the brain. The olfactory bulb is directly connected to two parts of the brain associated with memory and emotion, the amygdala and the hippocampus. Oddly enough, visual, sound, and touch do not pass through that part of the brain, causing certain smells to bring back memories.
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Smellbound: An Olfactory Memory Experiement

A college student provided small samples of smells and blindfolded the contestants. She asked them to identify the scent if possible, and describe a memory that comes to mind. She found that all students she tested were able to describe a memory based off of that smell.