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What’s that smell?

3 years ago

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Joana Fidalgo | Engineer


9 September 2021

Like many others around the world, I have recently dealt with the woes of Covid. Luckily having escaped largely unscathed, barring an extremely runny nose and a few feverish days in bed, it was the loss of smell that bemused me the most. I think it is fair to say we all have pondered the impact of losing our vision or hearing, but typically we take smell for granted.

While not impairing, it definitely chipped away at some of the little joys in life. I was no longer able to smell (and by proxy taste) my favourite foods, so for a week it just felt like I was eating cardboard for every meal. The only positive was that after a few dirty laundry mix ups, I was dismissed from washing duties until recovered.

Which got me thinking about the importance of smells and how they play with our mood and feelings. In hindsight, it makes sense: after being processed in this little area at the front of our brains called the olfactory bulb, information from aromas is sent to our amygdala and hippocampus, areas intimately related to our ability to learn and make memories. This is why smells trigger positive or negative emotions or bring flashbacks of memories we thought we had lost long ago.

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