The olfactory memory



In our lives, smells are of daily importance. They always trigger a reaction, emotions. They are sometimes reassuring, comforting, at other times heady, disturbing. Either way, they are deeply imprinted on our memories.

You only have to come across a fragrance, to visualize the one who wore it. You smell this forgotten stole, its smell alone is enough to identify the owner.

And, what about that smell of just-mown grass, of a summer thunderstorm rain on a hot road, of sunscreen on the beaches in summer, of hot croissant, of bread just out of the oven or even the barbecue?

We have barely suggested them to you that you have your mouth watering, the desire to relive those moments. And here you are propelled into your memories, into every place, people, emotions, which are associated with it. And it’s so sweet and lovely!

How does olfactory memory work?

Indeed, why does the sense of smell, long before and much more powerfully than all your other senses, has the capacity to send you back at a specific moment, in an identified place, towards an emotion which seemed buried, even disappeared?

Neurosciences are passionate about the subject. So we are!

And for good reason: like you, we have about 1,000 different olfactory receptors. They allow us to identify specific scents and associate them with lived moments, without our having any rational awareness of them.

How is this possible? Thanks to our «olfactory bulb», able to analyse and interpret odours. In perfumery, we know the importance of bulbs, that of the iris and the even more coveted one of the sweet tuberose. Prosaically speaking, they are the place of storage, the quintessence of odours, scents. Scientifically speaking, our «olfactory bulb» is able to store odours, without naming them, without even describing them, according to a classification that we could be called “emotional”.

Why is olfactory memory so deeply rooted in the brain?

The olfactory message is an extremely fast sensory information, which passes from the environment, to our brain, directly into memory and until it reaches areas related to emotion.

All of this is possible because our fabulous “olfactory bulb” is located next to the seahorse. This part of our brain plays a central role in memory and in our spatial identification.

Smell is the most “animal” of all our senses. It occupied a pivotal place among our prehistoric ancestors and it remained deeply rooted in us. It sends its nerve signals directly to the brain, where sight and hearing take many detours

Memories associated with smells are more intense than those associated with other senses.