Ever wonder why certain scents bring up strong memories or even jump-start physiological effects? There’s actually a scientific reason for it. A study published in the journal Cerebral Cortex found that your brain plays a key role in the relationship between odors and nostalgia by storing scent recall in the part of your brain that creates long-term memories.
When a specific scent has a positive association, that smell can take you back to your favorite holiday or tradition and make you lean harder into that experience in the future. On the contrary, an old familiar scent might trigger the "flight" part of your adrenal system, when you’re hit with a whiff that reminds you of something negative or painful.
Oddly enough, memories connected to smell last longer than you'd think. One of the reasons certain scents bring up instant childhood nostalgia, according to the study, is because your memory files odors away in its long-term database. This is why scents often transport you to moments as far back as early childhood.
Scientists refer to this phenomenon as an odor-evoked autobiographical memory. In fact, other research revealed that a range of people, young and old, were able to recall more than twice as many memories when they were associated with an aroma.
So, it’s safe to say that scent is important. Whether it’s pine that makes you think of mountain drives and fresh air, or pumpkin bourbon for those holiday memories full of fireplaces, good food, and liquid courage, let’s make the most of these moments. Check out which scent you want to bond with on a cellular level.
Bonus Fact: Smell is the oldest sense. Before sight, hearing and touch, living organisms evolved to respond to their environment through smell. Dang, that's cool.