Posted by & filed under Memory, Neuroscience.

Description: You have, no doubt, heard about the powerful connections between odors and memories. When I talk about this in Psychology classes I suggest that if you ever want to remember your elementary school days just wait for this time of year when schools have been buttoned up tight due to the cold for a while and then step into the main hallway of an elementary school and take a few deep sniffs of the air. (Actually, go to the main office first and explain what you are doing so you do not cause panic huffing and puffing in a building full of children). The combination of craft glue, construction paper, sweaty boot liners, and well hidden aging lunches should bring you elementary school years rushing back to you. (Oh, and another ethical “actually”, think before doing this if you really want to recall your early school years. Perhaps there are good reasons why you cannot do so without odorific priming!). So, how are odors connected with episodic memories in the brain? What storage processes and mechanisms are involved? Well, read the article linked below for one possibility.

Source: How odors are turned into long-term memories, Neuroscience News.

Date: December 27, 2017

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Links:  Article Link —

The research results reported in the linked article suggests a few interesting things. First are the involvement of the piriform cortex and orbitofrontal cortex in processing odor memories and linking them to other, episodic, memories (and how they were identified using stimulation techniques). Second is the interplay between these two brain areas which is a good example of the increasing number of brain connection we are finding between “lower” level brain based functions that do stuff and higher-level centers that command monitor and organize the stuff of the lower centers. In this case the piriform cortex processes odors into memory but only when the orbitofrontal cortex tells it to do so.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How are odors stored in the brain?
  2. How are odor memories linked to episodic memories?
  3. What other research might be interesting to do looking at potential linking mechanisms between odors and episodic memories?

References (Read Further):

Strauch, C., & Manahan-Vaughan, D. (2017). In the Piriform Cortex, the Primary Impetus for Information Encoding through Synaptic Plasticity Is Provided by Descending Rather than Ascending Olfactory Inputs. Cerebral Cortex, 1-13.

Burden, C. M., Elmore, C., Hladun, K. R., Trumble, J. T., & Smith, B. H. (2016). Acute exposure to selenium disrupts associative conditioning and long-term memory recall in honey bees (Apis mellifera). Ecotoxicology and environmental safety, 127, 71-79.

Tonegawa, S., Pignatelli, M., Roy, D. S., & Ryan, T. J. (2015). Memory engram storage and retrieval. Current opinion in neurobiology, 35, 101-109.

Herz, R. S. (2016). The role of odor-evoked memory in psychological and physiological health. Brain sciences, 6(3), 22.