Scent, Memory and Proust told me-3

But, when nothing subsists of an old past, after the death of people, after the destruction of things, alone, frailer but more enduring, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, smell and taste still remain for a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, on the ruin of all the rest, bearing without giving way, on their almost impalpable droplet, the immense edifice of memory.

Have you ever thought of someone or any episode of your life (which made a special impact on you )and all that you remember is how it smelt at that time or what kind of taste it left in your mouth?

Advancements in Medical Physiology have proven that olfactory memory is retained for the longest time and that is our brain’s special way of remembering people and events.
I particularly remember all important events in my life with regard to the scent of air at that time(correlating with the season)
The scent of salty beach air, wet soil mixed with fallen leaves on a trek taken years ago, scent of aftershave worn by someone special, scent of oil in my grandmother’s hair, scent of gooseberries in my ancestral house and who can ever get over the scent of home made cookies .

We have known for some time that combining visual and auditory aids helps in better retention and learning.
If one requires a memory to be stored in his Neocortex , that is converted into long term memory , there has to be structural changes in the neurons.
Structural changes in turn are made possible by multiple revisions (rehearsals) and meaningful associations.

Therefore a scent which is encountered multiple times or holds association with something/someone meaningful has more chance of being converted into long term memory.

This could hold some importance in better learning and memory.
I remember retaining things better with roses in my room.
Even the scent of sandalwood and coffee helps me focus better.
Could there be more to these scents than just aromatherapy?
We know that certain scents have a calming effect and help in relaxation.
But can these be combined with other sensory inputs like visual(reading) and auditory (listening) for better consolidation of memory.?
This could be important in patients of Alzheimer’s disease who have difficulty retaining new information and learning new things .
It is the recent memory which is affected first the remote memory is affected much later.
The episodic type memory (event associated-a family trip, a party, birth, marriage) is affected the most.


2 thoughts on “Scent, Memory and Proust told me-3

  1. Absolutely! As a child, my neighborhood friends and I would meet up and play on summer evenings at one corner of our street where the homeowner had a honeysuckle hedge on one side. To this day, every time I smell honeysuckle it brings back images of those carefree days, and I have planted a honeysuckle at every house I have owned as an adult (even though it can be horribly invasive). On the flip side, my ex-husband used to often drink Amaretto and as a result anything that smells like almonds immediately raises my tension level.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, the intensity of how we feel is immensely high. Aah.Even i can smell honeysuckle now.:) For the scents we associate with unpleasant things, it can instantly shift the mood and make one dismal.


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