FRAGRANT MEMORIES: can memory trigger smell?

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Noel Coward mused that cheap music could be oddly potent at stirring memories. The same may be said of artificial aromas. Sun cream can whisk you back to childhood holidays, and the smell of the inside of mother’s handbag – which transcends time and culture – has inspired many a nose to recreate the evocative mix of lipstick and powder. But does it work the other way around – can memory trigger smell? A research group at University College London’s Institute of Neurology, led by Dr Jay Gottfried, set up an experiment to find out, and to ascertain how the brain stores meaningful memories. Volunteers were asked to make an association between pictures of objects and different smells by creating stories about them. And when they were later shown pictures of the objects again, scientific measurement showed that their piriform (olfactory) cortex was reactivated even when the smell had gone. Gottfried’s team concluded that rather than clumping the sights, sounds and smells of a memory together into one bit of the brain, it is distributed across different areas and may be rekindled through one sensory channel. Memory association like this served our primeval ancestors by allowing them to anticipate a predator, say, from a variety of sensory clues even if they could not see it. In beauty, a senses-based business, smell, sight and sound are profound marketing tools. We are constantly bombarded and seduced by beautiful images and products and while they may seem aspirational on the surface their appeal can go beyond what the eye can see, the fingers touch or the nose smell: our desire for certain things – be it a fruit-flavoured lipgloss or shampoo, pink hand cream in a twinkling glass pot or a particular brand of sun cream – may be stirred by a deep recollection that we are barely aware of.



Our totally fabulous summer scents ..

RUTH MASTENBROEK AMOROSA - a sensual floral fragrance with notes of watermelon and white flowers.

MITCHELL AND PEACH SCENTED CANDLE - a true scent of lavender to evoke the height of summer.

SAGE LA TURQUOISE - evokes the effervescence of the sea and sunny Californian lifestyle with its oceanic notes.