How Do You Smell?
Wonderful, I'm sure -
especially so if you're wearing one of your own
creations, but that's
a story for another time.
This story is about how we
smell - how we detect smell with our senses -
why smell is so closely linked to feeling, mood,
emotion and memory. This is a dip into the
Did you know 3% of our
genes are devoted to smell? Amazing, uh!
Scientists Richard Axel and
Linda Buck won the Nobel Prize in 1991 for their
research into the olfactory system. They found
that that 3% of our DNA represents 1000 genes,
each of which is the building block of 1000
distinct receptor cells, each of which reacts to
different odour molecules. The highly tuned
receptor cells then send their messages to the
part of the brain that allows us to recognise
olfactory patterns - smells to you and me.
We all recognise how a
fragrance can bring back memories, affect our
mood, flood our emotions. This is because the
olfactory bulb is part of the brain's limbic
system, an area closely associated with memory
and feeling. The olfactory bulb has intimate
access to the amygdala, which processes emotion,
and to the hippocampus, which is responsible for
associative learning. So when you first smell a
new scent, your brain forges an association
between the smell and a memory - you link it to
an event, a person, a thing or even a moment. So
when you smell again, that memory is triggered
along with the emotional response. Often we are
oblivious to this, but it happens constantly.
Learning can even start as early as the womb-
babies recognise their mother's scent.
So the moral is..., if you
want someone to remember you, perfume is a