Verywell Mind: This Is Why We Associate Memories So Strongly With Specific Smells

It probably comes as no surprise that the sense of smell is closely linked with memory. “People often do say that the sense of smell conjures up memories so well that they feel as if they were experiencing the event again,” says Theresa L. White, PhD, professor and chair in the department of psychology at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. “Smelling Gramma’s pasta sauce makes them feel as if they were back in her home, enjoying a good meal.”

This year, several studies have looked closely at the connection between odors and powerful memories. One Northwestern Medicine study, published in Progress in Neurobiology, identified a neural basis for how the brain enables odors to trigger powerful memories.

And researchers from the University of California, Irvine, discovered specific types of neurons within the memory center of the brain that are responsible for acquiring new associative memories, i.e., memories triggered by unrelated items, such as an odor.

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