The Link Between Smell and Your Memories
Most people know what it’s like to smell something great that you love the smell of – it’s great. What many don’t know is that your brain can also help your memory. According to a study out of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and published in the journal Nature, waves in your brain make smells stick to your memories and inner maps. Researchers have recently discovered the process behind this phenomenon. The brain, it turns out, connects smells to memories through an associative process where neural networks are linked through synchronized brain waves.
“We all know that smell is connected to memories,” said the lead author. “We know that neurons in different brain regions need to oscillate in synchrony for these regions to speak effectively to each other. Still, the relationship between interregional coupling and formation of memory traces has remained poorly understood. So we designed a task to investigate how odor-place representation evolved in the entorhinal and hippocampal region, to figure out whether learning depends on coupling of oscillatory networks.”
The study used rats, teaching them to go through a maze and adding in smell as a stimuli.
“Immediately after the rat is exposed to the smell there is a burst in activity of 20 Hz waves in a specific connection between an area in the entorhinal cortex, lateral entorhinal cortex (LEC), and an area in the hippocampus, distal CA1 (dCA1), while a similar strong response was not observed in other connections.”
So the signals in your nose translate and connect to memories in an orchestrated symphony of signals in your head. Those memories are connected to a location – so when you smell the fragrance, you think about how that connection was created in the first place.
Razi Berry, Founder and Publisher of Naturopathic Doctor News & Review (ndnr.com) and NaturalPath (thenatpath.com), has spent the last decade as a natural medicine advocate and marketing whiz. She has galvanized and supported the naturopathic community, bringing a higher quality of healthcare to millions of North Americans through her publications. A self-proclaimed health-food junkie and mother of two; she loves all things nature, is obsessed with organic gardening, growing fruit trees (not easy in Phoenix), laughing until she snorts, and homeschooling. She is a little bit crunchy and yes, that is her real name.