All our memories are created from information gathered through our five senses. So if you smell, taste, hear, see, or touch something that created a pleasant or unpleasant experience you will create a strong memory associated with it. This is the basis of learning for all animals including us. So if your senses are stimulated by a previous encountered with that stimulus you will either avoid it or enjoy it the next time that experience is encountered because you remembered it.
Odor and memory are connected because of your anatomy - specifically, your brain.
The primary olfactory cortex, (part of the brain having to do with smell) receives information about smells from nerves in the nose. It links directly to the amygdala ** and the hippocampus*** .
** amygdala - (almond-shaped groups of nuclei located deep within the medial temporal lobes of the brain - controls expression and experience of emotion)
*** hippocampus - (a major component of the brains of humans and other vertebrates. It belongs to the limbic system and and controls the consolidation of memories)
Because the olfactory nerve (smelling nerve) passes directly through the hippocampus (memory storage area).
I know this is true-- but didn't know the technical details until I read some of the other answers here. Fascinating.
I know that the smell of paper, printer's ink and kerosene evoke memories of my dad's print shop, for me.
I have read books that describe smells, like ocean, rain, dried pine needles and get an immediate impression of the scene the author describes. I think this is one reason why good narrative writing includes all of the sensory cues in descriptions.
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