Our noses have a way of sniffing out memories
Memories can be triggered by any of our senses, but it’s one’s sense of smell which seems to bring out emotional memories like nothing else.
After a smell enters the nose, it travels through the cranial nerve through the olfactory bulb, which helps the brain process smells. The olfactory bulb is part of the limbic system, the emotional center of the brain. As a member of the limbic system, the olfactory bulb can easily access the amygdala, which plays a role in emotional memories (it’s also where the “fight or flight” reflex comes from).
“Smells do bring back memories,” says Dr. Ken Heilman, James E. Rooks Jr. Distinguished Professor Neurology and Health Psychology at the University of Florida and a member of AAN. “Smell goes into the emotional parts of the brain and the memory parts, whereas words go into thinking parts of the brain.”
A smell can bring on a flood of memories and influence people’s moods.