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BonPills: The power of olfactory memory

Smell is the oldest of the five senses and is inextricably linked to the primordial areas of the brain which in turn regulate emotions and gthe primitive instincts of man.

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Over the years, the importance of smell has been overshadowed by the senses of sight and hearing which allow us to recover information more immediate and direct, until the sense of smell has become in fact an “auxiliary sense” of minor importance.

Despite this, even if we don't realize it, the sense of smell is a protagonist in our daily life > and conditions man's various aspects and behaviors, thanks to the closelink between this sense and our emotions.

Olfactory memory is the phenomenon that allows us to recall emotions, sensations, moods or memories after coming into contact with a specific smell that awakens something in us.

Rremembering an experience vividly after sensing a certain smell or taste is an extremely common and fascinating phenomenon defined as " Sindrome di Proust” and in his masterpiece “Alla ricerca del tempo perduto” wrote the following:

«and immediately, mechanically, oppressed by the gloomy day and the prospect of a sad tomorrow, I raised a spoonful of tea to my lips in which I had let a piece of madeleine soften. But at the same instant that sip mixed with the crumbs of the dessert touched my palate, I winced, attentive to something extraordinary happening inside me. A delicious pleasure had invaded me, isolated, without a notion of cause (. ) and suddenly the memory appeared to me. That flavor was the same as that little piece of madeleine that, on Sunday morning, in Combay, when I went to say good morning to her in her room, Aunt Léonie offered me, after dipping it in her tea or linden infusion. The appearance of the madeleine hadn't reminded me of anything before I tasted it»

Apparently it may seem more of a gustatory sensation than an olfactory one, but in reality the aroma of food is largely determined by the olfactory receptors, which through retronasal perception help to define flavours.

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Since childhood, our olfactory system processes and catalogs all the odorous molecules with which we come into contact. The area of ​​the brain that processes olfactory experiences is the limbic system, which is directly connected with:

  1. our emotions - amygdala
  2. our memory - hippocampus

For this reason, an emotion or a memory is associated with each smell, allowing us to recognize what we like, dislike, disgust or put us in danger.

Who has never perceived a certain smell and strongly remembered the period and the emotions associated with it? For example, it happened to me to smell a perfume that I used to use a few years ago and I fell back to my university days with the exam in chemistryphysics at the door.

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The olfactory memory is finally linked to the Scent Marketing, i.e. the branch of marketing that studies the influence of smells in consumer choice.

Federica Cosmast

Dr. Federica D'Incà - COSMAST Master in Cosmetic Science and Technology

“Every woman has the right to be beautiful” - Elizabeth Arden

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