I ‘scent’ a mood change

I love the scent of jasmine, honeysuckle, and orange blossom. They remind me of gardens and visits to the ocean I would make as a boy”. Narciso Rodriguez

Image sourced from Shutterstock by Gcapture

What is it about scents that can make us stop, pause and think?  Can it be like music, where some tunes can trigger happy, sad memories or bring us back to points in time?

 Firstly, ‘How do we smell’?

Our humble nose is a lot more complicated than it looks!  Our sense of smell is part of the chemosensory systemLocated high in the back of our noses are specialized cells, called sensory neurons.  These are clustered together in a strip called the olfactory epithelium which contains olfactory receptors There are 450 million dfferent olfactory recptors within our nose.  However, this is a tiny in comparison to our four legged friends. Who would have thought that dogs have 220 million receptors!

Now let’s get back to the sense of smell in humans. Let’s imagine that you are walking in a beautiful garden, and the scent of jasmine wafts by.   Within the scent of jasmine are tiny particles, called odour molecules. These can activate many different olfactory receptors.  On the tips of these receptors cells are proteins. These act much like a lock and key. Once the odour molecules have binded to the receptor(s) an electrical signal travels to the olfactory bulb in our brains.

There is simply just not one specific lock and key for each particular smell.  For example the scent of jasmine could trigger, let’s say olfactory receptors, 3, 338, and 405 as an example. It is through this complicated process that we are able to smell a wide variety of aromas.  Scientists now believe that the human nose is able to detect up to one trillion different types of aromas.

Author: Rose Eveleth. Video: “How do we smell” sourced from: https://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-do-we-smell-rose-eveleth

But I want to know if smells can affect my mood?

Our sense of smell is the strongest of our five senses.  75% of our daily emotions come from our sense of smell  The olfactory nerve is responsible for sending the odour signal to our brain which is linked directly to the limbic system.  The limbic system is a control centre which monitors emotions and memories. Research has shown that odours can affect our mood, concentration, memory recall and emotions.

Have you ever wondered why, a certain smell makes you stop and think back to a distant memory?  

Our ‘smell’ memory as it turns out, is geared towards remembering the ‘positive’.  However, it is worthy to note that smells can also produce a negative emotional responses, like post traumatic flashbacks. They also can be helpful and make us run!  The smell of a predator can trigger an adrenaline rush and alert us of the incoming danger. On a more pleasant note ‘smells’ can also be used for healing through ‘Olfactory aromatherapy. Many of us are all aware of the calming effect of the smell of lavender. Research has also shown that a mother’s diet during pregnancy can also influence her child’s sense of smell!

It seems that our humble nose is indeed like a music conductor in a symphony of smells.  And like music, odours too can influence our daily emotions.  And bring us to back to a memory of a favourite time and place.


Photo by author.