How can a smell bring back detailed longtime forgotten memories?

Ok, in 1999, I started to work for a company (called Bosch, back in France, not that it matters, but I'm from France). There was that particular smell (not a bad smell, but an odor that I wasn't familiar with). Never smelled it again, until yesterday, for whatever reason, that same odor came to my nostrils for a fraction of a second, and I had that flashback, really detailed memories of what happened that day I started working there... It was really vivid, that was awfully weird...

But I've gotta say that it felt good.

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  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I think the sense of smell to bring back memories is absolutely amazing. My mother died when I was young, and if you asked me what perfume she wore or what she smelled like, I would not have been able to tell you. But last year I was sampling perfumes and picked up a bottle of Opium, and the minute I smelled it I realized it was hers. It was so overwhelming I started to cry in right at the makeup counter! I also get that feeling whenever I smell chocolate chip cookies, go figure.

  • Claud
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    It's the connection between olfaction and memory. Emotion, retrieval of memories, and the sensation of smell all happen on the right side of the brain.

    The process that takes place is quite complex. After an odor molecule enters the nose and is recognized by the olfactory sensors, the signals are eventually sent to the olfactory bulb that is located right above the eyes. The signals only go to two areas in the olfactory bulb, and signals from different sensors are targeted to different spots that then form a sensory map. From there the signals soon make their way to the olfactory area of the cortex known as smell sensory cortex.

    I hope i didn't bore you too much.

    Source(s): Aromatherapist
  • 1 decade ago

    It has been proven that smells have a very strong ability to provoke vivid memories. I have had this happen to me several times. The effect of the smell can be so strong that it triggers something in your brain and you can remember the source of the smell. In your case, you remembered where and when you smelled it before. I have been living away from home for the past couple of months and my relative sent me some nice scented soap. I was washing my hands with it and suddenly BOOM! I was back in a summer day in my home country and I immediately felt homesick. The smell was so familiar and I realized it was the soap my mom bought. But it somehow feels good in a way, I know what you mean.

  • 1 decade ago

    As a previous respondent stated there are many ways a memory can be triggered. Furthermore the olfactory (smell) part of the brain is in the same facinity as that of memory storage and retrieval, it has been shown that smells are an espcially good way of triggering memories.

    That's why it's always good to wear the same perfume/aftershave when studying and doing an exam!

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  • 1 decade ago

    This happens to me all the time. The other day I briefly got a whiff of a cologne an ex boyfriend from like 2 years ago used to wear and I actually got tears in my eyes and a huge wave of sadness and memories rushed over me...it was so weird. But cool at the same time...idk.

    I don't know how it happens...but I guess just when we associate a smell with a certain time or place...

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Yeah, there's definitely a connection with smells and memories. In fact, I think I once read that scent is the strongest way to bring back a memory involuntarily.

  • 1 decade ago

    yeah same thing happened to me, I was six years old and I lived in a house and it had a particular smell. I had the same smell while playing games about 11 years later and it was like I was re living it. It felt refreshing and I felt more then alive

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    It's because there are three different stages with memory, enocoding, storage, and retrieval. Over time we suffer from a memory decay period, (forgetting things,) but they can be triggered by three things. What yours would have been triggered by is cue dependent, meaning from that smell all your memories returned to you of what happened that day because of that distinct smell.

    Source(s): I study psychology.
  • Kira
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    It happens sometimes. The mind does that. It doesn't have to be significant, but sometimes a specific phrase, time of day, smell, touch, taste, etc. can send memories flooding back to us. Our minds are tricky that way. You're not the only one

  • scent is one of your stronger senses, right next to sight and hearing. for example, you hear tires screeching, you think of a car wreck, or you see clouds you think rain. you've just had some sort of significant experience with a smell,sight, or noise that can trigger a memory. Make sense?

    Source(s): Discovery channel?
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