#SomethingNewEveryDay – Smell and Memory

One of my favorite “ice breaker” type questions is this:  Had you to give up one of your five senses – sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell – which one would you choose?

I know from my own experiences that there is a strong association between smell and memory.  Whenever I smell a humid basement – that strange mix of wet concrete specific to New England – I can immediately remember a hundred things about my grandparents’ house.  Years ago, I walked past a man wearing the same cologne a long-ago, long-time boyfriend wore, and I found myself a little choked up before I pieced together what I remembered and why.

But, I never studied why smells can trigger memories.  So, I went in search of an article that might explain, and I found a great one on HowStuffWorks.  It’s worth a read.  The most interesting fact I learned was about anosmia.  Anosmics are people without a sense of smell.  I had no idea that there was an actual name for this condition.  I also did not really appreciate how global sense of smell is in terms of how the human brain works (or doesn’t work).