By Tom Hale
10 MAR 2021, 16:49
Smells can be surprisingly emotive. A passing scent of perfume might remind you of an old friend, or the aroma of dinner cooking on the stove might take you back to your grandmother’s cooking. In a new study, reported Progress in Neurobiology, researchers show how human evolution and the brain’s wiring may help to explain how smells manage to spark such strong memories.

Scientists at Northwestern University looked at the different networks that hook up our primary sensory areas – sight, sound, touch, and smell – to the hippocampus, a complex brain structure involved in emotions and memory formation. They discovered that the hippocampus has a significantly stronger connection to the sensory system used for smelling, the olfactory system. They argue that this supercharged direct-line between the olfactory system and the hippocampus might help to explain why smells can elicit such a strong emotional response in people.

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