Posted by & filed under Higher-Order Cognitive Functions in Aging, Memory, Neuroscience.

Description: I know the answer to this question is yes but consider it anyway. Have you ever run into a smell that immediately took you back into your memory to another time or place? Maybe it was the lovely smells coming out a bakery that remained you of your grandmother’s kitchen or perhaps the smell of BBQ reminded you of your favourite uncle who sent hours out by his smoker. Those sorts of memories are called associative memories and the connections they help us make across time space and sensory modalities are vital parts of the richness of human memory. Think about how many times you have had memories…. rich memories… brought to mind by a tiny bit of a smell. Given how often it happens would it surprise you to read that research has, until now, not been ale to identify the ways in which those associations are processed in the brain. This is important because memory is essentially associationalistic and we need to understand how those connections are made. As well, understanding those connections may help us in many, many areas (recall, reflection, Alzheimer’s etc. etc).

Source: New research ‘sniffs out’ how associative memories are formed, ScienceDaily.

Date: September 22, 2021

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Article Link:

All right, what memories have you had triggered by smell lately? If you ever (and you may not ever) want to remember what elementary school was like go to an elementary school in winter after a cold snap when it has been closed up tight for a while. Go to the office and let them know what you are doing (and get their permission) and then take a few deep breathe smells. I promise you that the combination of old lunches, sweaty boots, construction paper and white glue will take you right back to your early days! And the finding that associative memories are processed with dopamine (reward) pathways fits in with the rewarding nature of smell induced nostalgic memories!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are associative memories?
  2. What is rewarding about associative memories?
  3. What sorts of things (applications) might a better understanding of the nature of associative memories help us with?

References (Read Further):

Lee, J. Y., Jun, H., Soma, S., Nakazono, T., Shiraiwa, K., Dasgupta, A., … & Igarashi, K. M. (2021). Dopamine facilitates associative memory encoding in the entorhinal cortex. Nature, 1-6. Abstract Link

Wang, J. H. (2019). Searching basic units in memory traces: associative memory cells. F1000Research, 8. Link

Naveh-Benjamin, M., & Mayr, U. (2018). Age-related differences in associative memory: Empirical evidence and theoretical perspectives. Psychology and aging, 33(1), 1. Link

Enke, B., Schwerter, F., & Zimmermann, F. (2020). Associative memory and belief formation (No. w26664). National Bureau of Economic Research. Link

Wang, J. H., & Cui, S. (2017). Associative memory cells: formation, function and perspective. F1000Research, 6. Link

Rubiño, J., & Andrés, P. (2018). The face-name associative memory test as a tool for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 1464. Link

Horn, M. M., Kennedy, K. M., & Rodrigue, K. M. (2018). Association between subjective memory assessment and associative memory performance: Role of ad risk factors. Psychology and aging, 33(1), 109. Link