How Do You Smell?



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 science ...

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 powerful tool.