I’ve always had a strong sense of smell, possibly inherited from my maternal grandmother. She, too, expressed her keen sense of smell whenever she became alert to some odour, such as the gas being left on in the kitchen, or a specific type of cooking aroma wafting through the air into her vicinity.
I type this from my bedroom at my mom’s house, sitting propped against pillows on my futon, hot coffee on the side table. I was reading a book about neuroscience when suddenly, I smelled toast. 🍞
Mom’s up, I thought and glanced at my cup. I usually drink my first cup before she gets up. I usually sip my second cup later, with her, in the livingroom surrounded by her ever-increasing lego projects. 😳
Our sense of smell has many functions: we might detect certain hazards with our nose, or become aroused by pheromones during a romantic encounter. Smell also plays a significant role in taste – the anticipation of a food item we are about to consume.
My Beagle, Sir Tucker the BeagleHound, has a very keen sense of smell. He is the sole reason for the sheer lack of cardiovascular workouts in our walks due to his never-ending sniffing. He has so! many! smells he is required to investigate! Doesn’t really cause an increase in heart rate, truth be told… 😀
Beagles have over 220 million scent receptors. Compare this to humans who have 5 million.*
*sources from general googling
I knew a man once who stated he was mostly driven by scent when it came to women. I wondered about that statement given how many women use heavy perfumes or the like to scent themselves, especially when going on a social outing. Or perhaps he meant a different sort of scent.. (yes, I have a visual in my head…) 😎
I’m not a huge perfume person but I have a couple scents I like using sparingly occasionally. Mostly I don’t, though. I do like scented body washes and hair products; my current favorite is lavender based.
But back to my mom’s toast.
The smell of her gluten-free, seed-based bread she was toasting in the toaster oven evoked a childhood memory and transported me back to my grandmother’s tiny kitchen back in Switzerland🇨🇭 during the 1970s. When my sister and I stayed over, we would often be treated to a cozy atmosphere full of special scents each morning, like toast, hot chocolate for us kids, and coffee for my grandmother and grandfather. The window might have been open slightly letting in the spring air of the many flowering trees and bushes just outside the front of the house. It was comforting, these smells, and reinforces how significant the formative years are in establishing memories and experiences our brains continue to draw on well into adulthood.
I’m reading a lot about how brain function relates to our real and imagined experiences, or more specifically, our reactions to experiences. Remember my post about the lemon slices?
When I think of lemon in my mouth I feel a similar sensation as if I actually have a slice of lemon in my mouth. Even thought I don’t have lemon in my mouth, my brain sends messages to my mouth to produce a bit of extra saliva because that is what happens when I actually have a slice of lemon in my mouth.
This whole thing fascinates me. So while I sat there on my futon, I turned my attention to the smell of toast and realized I felt a certain texture in my mouth; crumbs from the toasted bread.
Of course, I was not currently eating toast. But I knew exactly what toast tasted like because I’ve had toast thousands of times before and my brain stored that memory deep in my subconscious. I don’t need to have toast in my mouth to know what the experience of eating toast will feel, taste, and yes, smell like.
In fact, based on this memory, I decided just now that I don’t want toast for breakfast today. I’m not in the mood for toast based on how I remember what toast feels and tastes like in my mouth.
What I do feel like however is another cup of coffee. I can already taste it: hot, creamy, with just a bit of foam on the surface…and with that unique and lovely scent we all enjoy inhaling during our morning routine. ☕🥰
I’m curious how you perceive this idea of the brain recalling memories and treating them the same was as real events. And, as always, thank you for reading my post. See you in the comments.