Thursday, February 4, 2016

Odor Evoked Autobiographical Memory

It is weird how the human brain is wired. Certain songs can transport me right back to a specific moment in my life, like when I hear The Lion Sleeps Tonight. Suddenly it's eight o'clock on a Monday morning in 1962, and I freak out because I haven't done my homework for Mrs. Meade's math class.
Grandma and Me

The same way that music triggers memories, odors also can bring back a certain time and place. Sometimes even what was an unpleasant odor at the time is now a somewhat pleasant time in my life. I remember a certain Chicago man that I knew back in the early seventies who did not have the best of personal hygiene. At the time it made me gag. Now, when I come across somebody who has the faint smell of an old goat, I get a good feeling. They say that smells are routed through the olfactory bulb in your brain, and that they pass very close to the region of the brain that handles memory and emotion. Yesterday I walked into our bedroom and a very familiar scent filled my nostrils. It was a scent that I have not encountered in over sixty years. I don't know where it was coming from or what caused it, but it brought me right back to my early childhood. It was the scent of old woman breasts, drenched in cheap cologne and sweat. Standing there in the bedroom I suddenly was two years old, on my grandmothers lap, staring down into the cleavage of her bosom at the dainty flowered hanky that she stored down there. It almost makes me not want to clean that room. It would be like losing Grandma again.

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