Arab Weather - We all went through that moment, that smell that brings us back through time and reminds us of a distinct experience we have had before, smells have a special effect on how we remember things, but is it not strange how some smells - even ordinary smells - can revive certain memories in us?
At the turn of the twentieth century, the French writer Marcel Proust wrote his masterpiece, a 7-volume series entitled In Search of Lost Time . The book talks about how we remember our past. At the beginning of the book, the author describes in a distinctive way one of his scenes related to a specific smell, as it brings back memories of a long-forgotten childhood, and unleashes the narration of the story with its details. Therefore, psychologists and neurobiologists decided to name the effect of smell in reviving memories as the "Proust effect."
Our long-term memory stores the scents we smell along with associated details such as emotions, people, locations, plants, animals, etc., it seems as if the brain creates a helper for memories of that experience using the scent as a key , so smelling these scents again will lead to remembering that particular situation. This phenomenon is also called "Olfactory Memory".
Scientists have conducted studies to understand the anatomy of the brain and how it processes sensory stimuli and stores memory, and these studies have proven that smells play an important role in memory. An Alzheimer's patient, for example, finds it difficult to recognize smells, because Alzheimer's disease causes the deterioration of a part of the brain called the hippocampus . Scientists have found that the hippocampus is an important part of learning and forming memories, and it is also associated with the sense of smell.
The molecules that are inhaled enter the nose, where they collide with the olfactory receptors, so the receptors pass this information to a part of the brain located behind the forehead called the olfactory bulb, the olfactory bulb decodes this information and determines exactly what smell we smell, and then the neurons transmit this information to the amygdala Ischemic.
The amygdala is an area of the brain that interprets emotional information, such as happy, sad, or funny experiences. From there, the signal moves forward toward the hippocampus, meaning that the process of smell stimulates two regions of the brain, the amygdala and the hippocampus.
Imagine that a person entered a grocery store to buy some fresh red strawberries. He took a big puff from the strawberry box and picked up his nose the aromatic compounds that give the strawberry its distinctive scent. He carries this information in the form of electrical signals to the amygdala and the hippocampus regions. His mom makes a strawberry milkshake for breakfast.
Which is why the shampoo your mother used when you were a child, may make you feel nostalgic for your childhood.
The Prost effect may have many scientific applications, such as exposing people to some scents that revive happy memories, and this can be used as a treatment method, as this good mood that we feel while retrieving memories of the past has beneficial effects, as it enhances self-esteem and raises optimism in the soul , and increases The relationship between past and present is strength, as it reinforces feelings of social connectedness.
But this, of course, depends on individual experiences, as individuals interpret smells differently, and the way they interpret them depends on their exposure to the chosen scents and the experiences associated with them.
Some companies have adopted the Prost effect for marketing purposes, so that some products are filled with special scents that carry meaning and arouse a certain feeling among people, for example in the 1990s, a tennis company added the smell of grass to its tennis balls, and when consumers open a box of tennis balls, they are overwhelmed by the feeling or memory of playing On the grass. There are perfume companies producing multiple scents to entice consumers' olfactory senses in an effort to increase their popularity.
Scents related to food and artificial scents that mimic the natural flavors are also used and are added with the packaging, as this improves people's experience of food and beverage products.
Studies have shown that positive emotions and good moods are beneficial for mental health, and that good mental health promotes physical health and prolongs life . Accordingly, one of the popular therapeutic methods is the use of aromatherapy to stimulate happy and enjoyable memories.
Part of the sense of comfort that people who eat when stressed has been linked to smell, and although our brain does not classify olfactory signals, there is a relationship between cognitive function and smell. The more you use your sense of smell, the newer and stronger connections are created between brain cells.
So, pay more attention to the scents in your environment, take a deep breath and inhale the various sweet scents that life has to offer!