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How scents and sounds trigger memory

Updated on April 23, 2013

Memory triggers

Memory is an interesting thing. I find it facinating that a certain song or a certain smell evokes memories from over 20 years ago. How the brain stores and keeps these memories is amazing.

Just last night while driving to a clients house, I was turning the radio to different stations and this old song from the "Police" came on.The song was "every little thing she does is magic" and it reminded me of my brother who died in a car accident back in 1986. That song brought me back to that time and I remembered he loved that song. It made me wonder if he was around at that moment, checking in with me so to speak. It was just a flash of a memory I had of him and it was wonderful and sad all at the same time. It made me miss him and wonder if he was sending me a message somehow, through the words of the song. He knew I was very interested in the magic and mysteries of life. Oh well I'll have to think on that one.

Smells also trigger memories of certain foods from when I was young and perfumes of my mom and my aunts. It makes me think of them with fond memories. The olfactory bulb is the part of the brains limbic system. It is sometimes called the emotional brain. Somehow even before you are born, your brain stores memories of smells. So for instance even in the womb you can remember smells of your mom smoking or baking or whatever she was surrounded by smell wise when you were growing. So even as an infant after your birth you remember these smells. I found that very interesting.

I read somewhere that real estate agents also use scents to make the clients they are working with feel more comfortable. So for example, the real estate stagers for a certain property would bake some cookies before the perspective buyers would come to give a homey kind a feel to the place. Supposedly this made the client more apt to purchase. Now of course there are scented candles and incense and room sprays, to help along with pleasant smells.

Companies even try to lure customers with certain scents so that you'll remember them and want to go back. For example: a bakery, the smell of fresh baked bread and cakes and a clothes store that smells of freshly washed linen, a candle store that has calming scents to draw you in. It's amazing what scents you store and are recalled in almost an instant, like peppermint(penny candy store when you were young) or certain perfumes(mom or grandmas favorite scent) or flowers(memories of your first love and the flowers they sent you).

Everyone correlates different scents to different events in their lives. Some evoke happy memories while others evoke unhappy and fearful memories. It is fascinating how the brain is wired to act and react according to a certain smell. The cerebral cortex integrates information from all of the sense organs, integrates motor functions and controls emotions and holds our memory.

For sound memory triggers, television commercials would get seemingly louder when they were trying to sell a certain products so that you would remember them. I think that has been banned now. I guess they'll do whatever it takes to get the consumers attention.

Some have a stronger auditory memory than others. The ones that don't seem to have more learning disabilities. This is a genetic trait that is also shared in identical twins. About 5% of the population in developed countries have learning disabilities that hinder auditory learning. This 5% has been linked to developmental disorders and genetic diseases. I wonder if deaf people have a harder time learning than a hearing person, if auditory memory is needed in learning how to speak and sound out words.

Well we are all amazing humans that have these incredible nerves and synapses and sensory organs that help us keep and hold memories of sounds and scents and so much more. I hope you found this helpful and interesting.


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    • moneyfairy profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Fairy 

      5 years ago from New Woodstock

      Thank you peachepurple!

    • peachpurple profile image


      5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      yeah, its true that sometimes a smell, a song or a voice could trigger back yr old memories


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