The smell of your mother’s cooking, or a loved one’s perfume, or that fresh, powdery smell of your baby grandchild – it’s amazing how scents can bring back such strong memories.
Now, scientists have worked out how our brains actually create memories from smells and recover those memories even years later.
Neuroscientists from the Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum in Germany explain that the piriform cortex, which is the part of your brain that distinguishes smells, temporarily stores what the scientists call “olifactory memories”.
But to make your brain create a long-term olifactory memories, a higher brain area, called the orbitofrontal cortex – the bit that discriminates between sensory experiences – has to get involved, which is something they demonstrated on tests on rats.
So, your orbital cortex has to tell the piriform cortex that a particular smell should be stored as a long-term memory, rather than discarded after a short while, the researchers explained, according to Science Daily.
So that’s what was happening when you breathing in the smell of your mother’s roast, or a partner’s aftershave, or another evocative scent.
Wow, our brains are amazing things!