What’s a smell👃 or taste 🥘 or sound 🎵 that always takes you back in time 🕰️ ?

And what do you think is your most emotional sense?

Is it taste? Smell? Hearing? Sight? Touch? What do you reckon? Can our The Carvalho Consultancymascot Brian the Brain help us with this question?

Well, I’ll tell you a story that gives you a clue…

When I was 17, I went on holiday with some girlfriends to Gran Canaria. In a dodgy bar in a shopping centre (classy) serving gross cocktails in lurid colours, my eyes met (across the dance floor) with those of a Dutch fella called Patrick. A holiday romance ensued. It was glorious.

When it came to leaving the island at the end of our holiday, we swore our undying love (of course) and exchanged addresses. A few weeks later, a package arrived at my parents’ house. It contained Patrick’s t-shirt liberally doused in Davidoff Cool Water aftershave. To this day I remain surprised that the package wasn’t deemed a fire hazard and retained by the authorities, such was the amount it was doused in. I slept with it for months.

So, yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s our sense of smell that is most closely associated with emotion. And also with memory.

Why? Well, our sense of smell is also known as olfaction. And the olfactory bulb sits at the front of the brain 🧠 and sends messages directly to the limbic system, which is part of the ‘old’ brain, responsible for emotions and memory (the amygdala and the hippocampus).

So, this means that smells are highly evocative.

The sense of smell is also thought to be babies and children’s strongest sense.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? For example, (for those of you of a similar ‘vintage’ to me), how could you not fail to be taken right back to teenage years by a whiff of Lynx Africa, the aforementioned Cool Water. Or The Body Shop Dewberry or White Musk?

Personally, after having used it every day during Finals Week at university, I can’t smell lavender without feeling like I’m about to break into a cold sweat…

And, on a more serious note, it’s worth bearing in mind how smell can evoke more distressing memories. Anyone who’s been through a traumatic or difficult time in a hospital for example, will often feel re-traumatised by a certain antiseptic smell.

Patrick and I never did get married and have lovely little Anglo-Dutch babies. But I tell you what – I’ve still got that T-shirt somewhere. And it still stinks of Cool Water….

Which smells do you find evocative? Let me know in the comments! #olfaction #brianthebrain

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