As you smell a fresh pine tree, cookies baking, bayberry or orange, do flashes of past Christmas holidays come flooding through your mind? This very aromatic season is an easy way to describe the phenomenon of scent and memory.
The process of smelling is a thing of beauty. Smell is a chemical sense detected by sensory cells called chemoreceptors in the nose that detect smell and pass on electrical impulses to the brain. The brain then interprets patterns in electrical activity as specific odors and olfactory sensation becomes perception – we recognize this as smell. The only other chemical system that can quickly identify, make sense of and memorize new molecules is the immune system (Sarah Dowdy, How Stuff Works).
Gratefully reprinted with permission from my good friend Pat Faust, Gerontologist – and her blog “My Boomer Brain”