Scent Back in Time4 min read
Physicists for many decades have been trying to warp space and time to enable time travel, but sometimes all it takes is a single whiff to be s(c)ent back in time.
We’ve all been there, taking our personal time machine for a spin – when a sensory cue triggers a memory so vivid that you actually relive the moment again. You walk past a stranger on the street, catch a whiff of his cologne and you’re suddenly five years old; accompanying your grandpa on one of his barber shop visits. Or, you step into the quaint new bakery down the street; breathing in the delicious wafts of brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla you’re sent back to the holiday season at your grandma’s house. For each and every one of us there’s at least one trigger, a scented portal into our own history, unlocking long-forgotten memories using nothing but our noses. Usually, that moment coincides with you asking yourself, okay what kind of sorcery is that?
There have been conducted many(a link to a very useful study here: shorturl.at/rtUVZ), many( link to another study here: shorturl.at/ekpG0), many( and an article based on a study here: shorturl.at/wEGI2) studies on this phenomenon, also known as Proustian moment. It’s named after French novelist Marcel Proust and his madeleine story.
The reason why it happens is because the olfactory bulb that detects scents is closely tied to our limbic system, a particular area of the brain that controls our emotions, memories, moods and feelings.
When we breathe in a smell for the first time, it passes through our noses and travels to the olfactory bulb, which then sends it to our limbic system. The limbic system is like a giant database that stores these scents and links them with certain memories and emotions. The next time you inhale that particular scent, your brain will most likely rummage through the database and voila – pull that memory forward into your conscious mind. Perceptual consciousness, which is the subjective way a single human perceives scents, tastes, sounds, and colors is still one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of our times. As scientists explain, this is why certain scents and perfumes will smell so good to you, but not to others.
The most interesting thing of all is that the limbic system empowers us to see a fragrance bottle not only as a time capsule, but also as a shape shifting instrument. You spritz a perfume and you’re the girl next door, but when the night comes and another perfume settles on your skin, you’re the ultimate seductress.
From the early stages of fragrances’ development, a great emphasis was placed on scents as means of seduction, highlighting a presence or achieving religious ecstasy through performing rituals. Today trends are only different on the surface. Perfume is still used to invoke the divine in ourselves and convey message to those around us. The ultimate power that you hold in your hands, unleashed with a single spray…
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