Why are Smell and Memory Linked?

smelling flowers

One minute it seems like an ordinary, average day. You're thinking about what to eat for lunch. You're on your way to an appointment. Or you're walking through the grocery store.

And suddenly it hits you...invisible waves of some distinct aroma penetrate your nostrils and reach your brain. The smell of freshly baked bread. Cut grass on a warm, summer day. A certain perfume. And you're instantly transported to a place from your past.

When your brain records an experience associated with smell, it creates a powerful memory. Researchers say this is because the brain region called the amygdala, where sensory data is collected and processed, is so close to the hippocampus, where memories are stored. So if the smell of baking bread takes you back to your grandmother's kitchen, or the smell of cut grass reminds you strongly of happy Saturdays in the suburbs, the proximity of these two areas are the happy coincidence that explains it.

Smell is also closely related to emotion, unlike any other sense. Certain smells can relax you, others make you feel revitalized. Think of the smell of salt water on a sunny day. The smell of smoke is cause for instant alarm, while certain perfumes and colognes can invigorate you in a different way.

Smell has a stronger link to memories than any other sense. That's because your brain's smell center is essentially wired directly to your memory center. So go ahead, take a whiff from that perfume bottle, and travel back in time. It's the best time machine you're likely to find outside of a book or movie.

If you want to live a long and healthy life well into your senior years, keeping those memories alive, regular exercise, smart lifestyle habits, regular check-ups, and a healthy diet are your best defenses.

Want to fill your kitchen with the smell of a home-cooked meal? Pick your favorite entree from the Senior Friendly menu, and let us do the rest.

healthy meals