Scent Nostalgia or Time Travel?


Scent is a strong memory trigger. Image credit: Shutterstock

Caliyah Newsome, Staff Writer

Have you ever smelled something and it instantly brought you back to a certain time in your life? Perhaps a candle, a store, a book, or even food? The smallest scent can bring you instant nostalgia. There is a scientific term for this feeling: olfactory memory. 

Smell and memory are two things that go hand and hand. Sure, our other senses can trigger a memory, but scent is the strongest trigger. This is because the olfactory system, also known as the sense of smell, is embedded deep in the temporal lobe of our brains in a complex structure known as the hippocampus. 

According to Very Well Mind, these smells that makes us nostalgic are usually ones that we experienced at a younger age. It’s amazing how one little whiff of anything can suddenly transport you back in time. Sometimes the memory is a good one and the scent can be comforting or exciting. On the other hand, the smell could be bad–not particularly a bad smell, but the smell could be linked to an unpleasant memory. 

Olfactory memory is just of many wild things our brains are capable of. I like to think of this nostalgic feeling as something similar to time travel. I know it isn’t like the cool time machines we see in movies or TV shows, but it’s still fun to think of it that way. We can be so far into our lives, yet be taken back to those memories of our earlier years unexpectedly. Even the memories we think we’ve forgotten can suddenly rise out of our heads just from one little scent.