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Why does smell trigger memories?

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Why does smell trigger memories?

Have you ever been hit with a sudden, unexpected, powerful memory? When it comes out of nowhere, do you ever also notice a familiar fragrance or aroma? If so, you are completely normal in this regard. Smells are capable of triggering some of the most powerful memory and emotional responses. If you have ever wondered why that is, you’re about to find out.

woman smelling man's neck

A little brain science

Smell is different from the other senses in how it interacts with your body. In this case, chemicals in the air make their way to your nose. They then chemically interact with your body to trigger a nervous response that you interpret as smell. With sight, you are picking up field changes. Sound is about pressure patterns. Touch involves direct contact, but with smell, there is a chemical interaction. When you smell something, on a very small scale, the chemicals are physically changing your body. That’s what you interpret, and it is why smell is so different in terms of perception. Smelling things changes you, literally. That’s why it has so much impact.

Because smells involve actual chemical changes, the signal type is different from the other senses. These signals don’t need processing at the thalamus and instead go straight to the olfactory bulb. This bulb is directly connected to your hippocampus and amygdala. By eliminating the processing step at the thalamus, smell signals hit the memory and emotion parts of your brain much harder.

This is why smells can be so stark and why you form such strong associations with particular aromas.

Putting the science to work

With a better understanding of how smell works and why it is impactful, you can rethink some basic things. How do smells affect your own life? Are there frequent smells that make you feel a certain way? It certainly makes the idea of aromatherapy more compelling and makes you think of scent in an entirely new way—as a method of affecting your own feelings as well as those of others.

Aside from that, you can try to regulate how you smell to other people. By doing so, you can build strong associations that bypass another person’s thalamus and hit stronger in the core parts of their brain. It all may sound complicated, but it all comes down to creating a signature scent, one that you’re known for.

You can develop a signature scent for yourself. You can wear that scent on dates, and your partner can associate your smell with good times. That’s a fun, powerful connection that can help you bond with people and develop a fondness for each other.

refined cologne

If that sounds appealing, then what you really need is a baseline to develop your signature scent. You don’t have to become a chemical engineer and manufacture your own fragrance. Instead, you can allow an existing fragrance to mix with your natural musk (which is not as gross as it might sound). This creates a unique aroma that is pleasant and entirely you.

That is the concept behind Refined™ and cologne-quality fragrances. You can choose how subtle you want the cologne part of your scent to be. The rest is all you, and it allows you to make a strong impression and lasting memories.



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