Most of us do not give our sense of smell a passing thought unless there are cookies in the oven or flowers in bloom. But scientists are probing this underappreciated sense to better comprehend the workings of our brains, from memory formation to Alzheimer’s disease. Some of the latest findings:
Smell and memory are intimately related—just think about how suddenly a familiar scent can whisk you into the past. Now a new study shows that smell can help the brain encode memories, too. Volunteers memorized the locations of several objects while smelling a rose scent, then some of them were exposed to the same scent while they slept. Those with perfumed sleep remembered the locations of the objects much better than their fragrance-free peers did, because the scent probably reactivated memories stored temporarily in the hippocampus.
This article was originally published with the title The Scent of Science.