Smell and Memory
American Military University
Erica St. Germain
Smell and Memory
What is the best way to commit something to memory? Memory is a combination of the processes used to acquire, store, retain, and retrieve information (Cherry, 2012). Students, professionals, children, and researchers would all benefit from knowing how to best encode information and ensure that information remains imbedded in one's long-term memory banks. The study of human memory has been a major priority for cognitive psychologists for many years. One of the main focuses has been with memory and the five basic human senses. Is it easier to recall a memory that one has seen , heard, touched, tasted, or smelled? In terms of quickness and effectiveness, from a biological and physical standpoint, the sense of smell is the most effective in retaining and retrieving information out of all five senses.
The process of in which information is transported into long term memory is called encoding (Goldstein, 2011). This process can be completed in several different ways using the different senses. Events in one life can be committed to memory via sight. Most would say that sight is the most effective sense in recovering memories because when one tries to remember a past event, they attempt to visualize it. Simple visualizations of past events usually only come in flashes and don't give an accurate, detailed depiction of the events that occurred. Hearing is the same, if one focuses on the auditory aspects of a memory, they will only recall what was heard and not many other details of the account.
The most detailed and fully formed recalls typically come from memories that are linked with strong emotions. Emotional memories cause a release of hormones from the adrenal glands and these hormones influence the effects or neurotransmitters in the brain, enhancing one's memory (Wade, 2012). Since emotions are so closely related to memory, one can assume that the sense with the closest relationship to emotions would be the sense that is most able to store and retrieve information accurately. The amygdala is a set of neurons located deep in the brains medial temporal lobe and plays a key role in the processing of emotions (ScienceDaily, 2012). The primary olfactory cortex, in which the higher level processing of hearing takes place forms a direct link with the amygdala (Herz, 1996). Only two synapses serarate the olfactory cortex from the amygdala, which is involved in experiencing emotion and emotional memory (Herz, 1996). So when one smells something, it immediately triggers an emotional response. That smell is then committed to memory emotionally, and in the future when that particular smell is experienced again, the emotions felt will allow the person to retrieve a detailed account of what was going on when that smell was first experienced. For example, if one happened to be staring out the window watching a dog chase a squirrel and smelled that their grandmother was baking chocolate chip cookies, years later when smelling those cookies again, that emotional response garnered before could bring about a detailed account of that dog chasing the squirrel.
The hippocampus is a part of the forebrain, located in the medial temporal lobe and is a critical tool used for storing memories (Buzsaki, 2010). The hippocampus has also been considered the brain's 都earch engine allowing for quick and efficient searches for deposited memories in the brain (Buzsaki, 2010). The hippocampus provides a storage for information and dedicates it to long term memory, and then later provides the ability to search through that database of information for specific memories and information. Only three synapses separate the olfactory nerve from the hippocampus (Herz, 1996). Given this information, one can see that the sense of smell carries a direct link to the storing of information, and also a direct link with the subsequent retrieval...
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