Autobiographical Odor Memory

Everyone has experienced the recollection of memories by some smell or odor. Sometimes these memories have to be fetched from a long long time ago not without difficulty. Often smelling something nice makes me wonder of what it reminds me off. But is this also evidence based or just sentimental crap?

According to a recent review not all of this is just nonsense. This review especially interested me due to it’s creative use of research design and theories about memory. Autobiographical memory across the life span can be divided into intervals across the life span. Over all the age distribution of memories evoked by verbal information is divided in the following phases: childhood amnesia, the bump, and recency or forgetting. Childhood amnesia is why we can’t remember almost anything before the age of 10, the bump is the enormous amount of memories that can be recalled from the ages 10 to 30 years, and recency reflects better retention of events occurring from the last 10 years.

This knowledge is based on verbal cues on personal memories, when comparing verbal cues to odors it’s found that older individuals have a bump with olfactory induced autobiographical memories whereas younger cohorts don’t have this bump. Moreover,presenting odors or words and asked the older participants to relate any autobiographical event to the respective cue the memories of the elderly evoked by odors were clearly located to the first decade of life whereas the younger group peaked on verbally evoked memories in early adulthood. The bump for memories evoked by odor appear earlier even before the age of 10, memories triggered by olfactory information are localized to the first decade of life (< 10 years) rather than to young adulthood. This is in contrast with other triggers such as verbal cues.

odor-evoked memorie are more emotional, associated with stronger feelings of being brought back in time, and have been thought of less often as compared to memories evoked by other cues

So it seems these sentimental observations seem to be true especially with increasing age, what do you think?

ResearchBlogging.org
Larsson, M., & Willander, J. (2009). Autobiographical Odor Memory Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1170 (1), 318-323 DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.03934.x