Image credit: Stop and smell the tulips by Kelly Hunter, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
This spring when I’ve been out doing yardwork, I’ve found the related smells left me reliving memories of summers past and looking forward to the activities this summer will bring. So, what is it about scent that triggers our memory?
Over the years, Science has been trying to figure that out. What they’ve learned is that scent memory lives in the most primitive part of our brains, the amygdala. The sense of smell is part of our limbic system, which rules our “fight or flight” response (which is a good thing, if you smell smoke and you didn’t build a fire… you probably want to get out of Dodge).
Scent memory is also one of the longest lasting types of memory (so much so that researchers are looking into the use of scent to help people living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia recall memories). I know this is true, the smell of freshly cut grass or the leather of a baseball glove transports me back to many summers past and softball practice.
Here are some more summer scent memories that have been flooding my brain recently:
- The scent of a particular brand of sunscreen transports me back to the beach (and my mother’s futile attempts to protect her bookish-child-of-Irish-descent’s skin from getting crispier than a chicharron).
- Walking through the woods and smelling the honeysuckle takes me back to summertime, windows down car rides through the country (where the stuff was everywhere) to my gram’s house.
- Smelling hamburgers and hot dogs cooking on the grill takes me back to relaxing backyard cookouts and summer block parties.
- A whiff of lavender always makes me think of the fond times I’ve spent in my backyard garden.
What smells bring back your fond summer memories? I’d love to hear your stories!