Wondering Why?

Why do smells trigger memories?

It is said that smelling something can easily trigger memories of the past.  This is so simply because the olfactory system that is responsible for the people’s sense of smell is closely connected to the brain’s so-called limbic system.  The limbic system is the center of emotions and memory. And because of its close connection with the olfactory system, there is also a great chance of a connection between a particular smell and an associated memory.

Although the olfactory nerve has a different pathway with the other structures of the limbic system, they are still close enough for easy connection.  Like in the case of smelling the flowers during springtime, this particular scenario will basically trigger an association of the flowery scents or smell with the idea that something significant happened during springtime.  And since the limbic system is closely situated alongside the olfactory nerve, an instant connection will be created between the two systems.  With this connection and association, the memory of springtime will easily be retrieved when a person is exposed to the smell of flowers again at some time in the future.

It is also common that the memories triggered by a particular smell relate to one’s childhood years.  This is because most types of smells are first experienced during one’s younger years.  The smell of great food, for example, may trigger memories of one’s original home or happy moments with siblings and grandparents.  The smell of fresh air may also bring about memories of one’s roots in the countryside.  The smell of animals may also trigger memories of the family farm when one was still young. Whatever the type of smell that is experienced, it will basically create a connection to the brain and associates it with another thing. And this thing may be a person, a happy moment, a favorite pet, or anything that has meaning to a person.

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