Smell, Emotions, and Memories: How They’re Interconnected

Have you ever encountered a scent that evokes intense emotional experiences and reminds you of vivid moments of your childhood? You’re not alone—smell has stronger ties with emotions and memory than the other senses.

Many people take the sense of smell for granted, but it’s a sensory modality that profoundly affects how a person feels and remembers. Because of this link, having a whiff of certain scents, such as old books, freshly cut grass, or that two scents diffuser in your home can trigger emotional responses or replay a specific instance from a person’s life. 

Researchers have long sought why smell has such influential ties to the human psyche, and neuroscience may explain their complex relationship.

Smell and the Seat of Emotions

The sense of smell is a way for your body to detect and interpret the presence of specific chemical compounds in the air. As the mixture of molecules wafts through your nose, olfactory receptor cells catch and transmit them to particular parts of your brain.

It turns out that the receptor cells transport the chemical signals to a region in front of the brain called the olfactory bulb. This structure is responsible for distinguishing between scents. Each concoction of compounds produces different smells.

The olfactory bulb, the centre of smell, directly connects to the brain’s limbic system. This system contains the amygdala, often referred to as the anatomical “seat of emotions”. The amygdala is responsible for motivation, emotional responses, and emotional behaviours.

Smell, Emotion, and Vivid Memories

Aside from its links to the amygdala, the olfactory bulb is also directly connected to the hippocampus—a brain region involved in learning and memory. Moreover, the smell centre stores memories itself in a structure called the piriform cortex. For this reason, a specific scent can influence someone’s ability to replay certain events from the past vividly.

The intimate relationship between smell, emotions, and memories may be an adaptation that our ancestors developed millions of years ago—scents tell us what to seek and avoid. We store those memories to aid us in survival. This connection has become hard-wired into our brains and has profound effects even in the modern age.

Harnessing the Power of Scents

Many homes and businesses use the power of smell to evoke certain feelings and instil memories into the minds of residents, guests, and customers. Whether it’s a fresh bunch of flowers or a cordless oil diffuser, strategically placing scents in vital touchpoints can cause people to feel or think in specific ways. Businesses also use signature odours to promote brand identity and help patrons remember them just by scent.

Shop Scents from a Luxury Aroma Store in Australia

The sense of smell is remarkably profound, and there’s no denying that it has a powerful and complex relationship with emotions and memories. Neuroscience has made their connection explicit, and knowing the importance of scent in our lives allows us to harness its potential applications.

If you’re looking for an aroma store in Australia, Scent Australia Home has you covered. We offer a broad range of luxury scents, diffusers, and sprays to help you harness the power of smell. Shop with us today!