You walk back to your drom while it is raining and the scent of the earth rises up into your nostrils and reminds you of your childhood where you’d run out into the backyard with your dad and welcome the first rains of the monsoon. Or what about that girl that passed by you today in class who smelled like daisies and just like your ex? You were suddenly reminded of the ecstatic time when your first fell in love and the tragic heartbreak that ensued later. We have all been through that one experience where certain smells and aromas trigger strong flashbacks of our past forcing us to reflect or leave us nostalgic.
Consider all of our important senses – Touch, taste, sight, balance, etc. out of the 20 senses that we know smell has probably been the most complex of all. Till today there is no working theory that explains smell – we don’t know if it’s molecule binding, we don’t know if it’s vibrations, we don’t know if it is the dendrites. What we do know is that the sense of smell was one of the first senses to develop and it goes directly to the brain; There is no filter for smell. This is the reason why smell is linked so strongly to memory and emotions. This experience is called as “Proustian Experience “
As I was discussing this fact with a friend of mine he jumps up excited that he has made a cure to getting better grades in exams; simply associate a smell with a particular text that was read. Seemed legit to me as well; however later upon research I found that this wasn’t possible. The smell concerns more with the emotional parts of the memory more than it concerns with the informational parts; namely the amygdala. That is also one of the reasons why sometimes the mind reshapes these memories into something more emotional than it already was resulting in the current experience to be a bit distorted from the actual experience that one went through. The feelings of remorse or happiness may come back in an enforced form.