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10 Facts About Memory

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Scent Can Be a Powerful Memory Trigger
Smell and Memory

The sense of smell can help evoke powerful and vivid memories.

Photo by Sandi Hanna

Have you ever noticed that a particular scent can bring forth a rush of vivid memories? The smell of cookies baking might remind you of spending time at your grandmother's house when you were a small child. The scent of a particular perfume might remind you of a romantic partner with whom your relationship ended on a sour note.

Why does smell seem to act as such a powerful memory trigger?

First, the olfactory nerve is located very close to the amygdala, the area of the brain that is connected to the experience of emotion as well as emotional memory. In addition, the olfactory nerve is very close to the hippocampus, which is associated with memory as you learned earlier in this article.

The actual ability to smell is highly linked to memory. Research has shown that when areas of the brain connected to memory are damaged, the ability to identify smells is actually impaired. In order to identify a scent, you must remember when you have smelled it before and then connect it to visual information that occurred at the same time. According to some research, studying information in the presence of an odor actually increases the vividness and intensity of that remembered information when you smell that odor again.

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