Why Does This Smell Familiar?

Smells & Memories By: Paige Rome

Why did i chose smells and memories?

I picked this topic because I often find myself asking myself questions such as, "Why does this smell familiar? Where do i know this smell from?" Many people ask these questions, but they don't realize that they have actually smelled that smell before even if they swear that they haven't. I would also like to find out more about why this occurs, and i would also like to help others understand why this happens.

Why is smell related to memory?

Scientists say that smell is the best related sense to memory. The reason for this is because of our olfactory bulb which is has access to parts of the brain that are associated with emotion and associative learning. scientists also say that if it wasn't for conditioned responses, we wouldn't be able to associate smells with memory. Conditioned response is the learned response to the previously neutral stimulus.

What happens in the brain?

What is going on in the brain at this time and what parts of the brain are being used? The smell travels through and reached parts of the brain associated with emotion (amygdala), areas for controlling memory (Cerebral cortex), and areas responsible for associative learning (Hippocampus). These parts of the brain are used to process the smell and remember what memory the smell is associated with.
What parts of the brain are failing?
Most of the time when we try and remember a smell but we can't seem to put finger on it, its mainly because our hippocampus is failing to remember the memory. Depending on when this memory takes place, we may or may not remember the memory.
Other Theories
Scientists say that formation of autobiographical memory peaks between the ages of 15 and 30. This theory makes sense because between these ages, many people experience things they won't forget such as going to college, getting married ect... Another theory is the Marcel Proust theory that smells have the most power to help us recall distant memories. Proust wrote a novel on a character that vividly recalls long-forgotten memories from his childhood after smelling a tea-soaked madeleine biscuit.

Research and experiments

Smellbound: An Olfactory Memory Experiment

A man conducted a blind smell experiment using smells that had been picked and printed via micro-encapsulation. He asked participants to close their eyes and describe the smell and guess what they are smelling. They were then asked to talk about a memory that comes to mind. They had their eyes closed so that they would not be influenced by what was on the card. Their responses were recorded. The man who conducted this experiment asked them additional questions, such as when the memory was, or if they had a hard time identifying it, to describing the smell or tell about associations with it. In between sniffing the cards, they had the option of smelling a hot cup of coffee to clear their sinuses, or to pause for a bit to take some fresh air.

How Smells Trigger Memories