You are watching your favorite television program late on a Saturday evening when suddenly the aroma of the cigar your father used to smoke, prior to his passing, permeates the air around the sofa. The unmistakable odor brings back memories of watching television with your father on the sofa late on Saturday nights as a child. The aroma and memory gone as quickly as they came.
No doubt the majority of people have experienced a type of aroma induced memory, but what are aroma induced memories? This paper published in 2000 might help.
Despite the tendency of humans to underestimate the role of smell in our every day lives, for most mammals, smell is the most important sense. Dogs are probably the most obvious example of this, it is through the use of the olfactory system that animals are able to find food, reproduce, and even communicate. While being one of the oldest and important parts of the brain, our failure to fully realize the importance of the olfactory system resulted in it being surrounded by numerous questions (2). How does it work? How do we identify smells? While these are only a few questions out of a whole list, research has progressed in recent years that we know much more about the olfactory system than before, but the fact remains that much remains to be found.
Through research conducted on mice, it is approximated that humans have 1000 different sensors in their nose (3). While this might seem like a large amount of sensors, it is not enough considering mice and humans can identify about 10,000 odors. The mystery surrounding this ratio can be explained through the unique features of the olfactory system. Odors are molecular so the method used is different from light or sound that come in waves (4).
Inside your nose about the level of your eyes, is a small patch of tissue containing millions of nerve cells. The odor receptors (sensors) lie on these nerve cells. Each of the receptors recognizes several odors, and likewise a single odor could be recognized by several receptors. Thus similar to codes, what happens is that different combinations of the 1,000 receptors result in our ability to identify 10,000 different odors. Linda Buck, an associate professor at Harvard, makes an analogy of this quite efficient system to letters being used in different combinations to make individual words. She goes on to say that this system ‘greatly reduces the number of sensors needed to code for the smells” (3).
The process that takes place is quite complex. After an odor molecule enters the nose and are recognized by the olfactory sensors, the signals are eventually sent to the olfactory bulb that is located right above the eyes (3). The signals only go to two areas in the olfactory bulb, and signals from different sensors are targeted to different spots that then form a sensory map. From there the signals reach the olfactory area of the cortex (smell sensory cortex) (5).
An important quality of the olfactory system is that information travels both to the limbic system and cortex. The limbic system is the primitive part of the brain that include areas that control emotions, memory and behavior. In comparison the cortex is the outer part of the brain that has to do with conscious thought. In addition to these two areas, information also travels to the taste sensory cortex to create the sense of flavor (2). Because olfactory information goes to both the primitive and complex part of the brain it effects our actions in more ways than we think.
Many wonder how certain smells able to trigger memories of events taking place several years ago despite the fact that sensory neurons in the epithelium survive for about only 60 days (1). The answer is that the neurons in the epithelium actually have successors. As the olfactory neurons die, new olfactory neurons generated by the layer of stem cells beneath them, which eventually takes the role of the old neuron as it dies. Linda Buck points out that the key point to the answer is that “memories survive because the axons of neurons that express the same receptor always go to the same place” (1). The memories are stored in the hippocampus, and through relational memory certain smells trigger memories.
(Read the full paper at http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro00/web2/Ito.html)
As paranormal investigators we run into aromas that are not connected to our own memories. A possible explanation was offered in an article at ShirleyMacLaine.com.
Many hauntings will feature aromas or smells that were popular with the ghost when it lived as a human being. Lilac perfume, cherry pipe tobacco, bread baking, all can be associated with hauntings. The smells come and go as quickly as cold spots. How can a smell disappear so quickly? The smell, I have been told in channelings, is sent to our brains in the form of an energy signal. It bypasses our normal olfactory senses and directly stimulates the part of our brain that recognizes smells and aromas. Remember ghosts ARE energy and since our brains work on energy, it’s an easy link up for them to communicate to us. Smells can either be projected by a ghost’s energy or “read” by sensitive people’s minds.
(Read the full article at http://shirleymaclaine.com/articles/ufos/article-334)
Throughout history aromas have been considered spiritual, medicinal, and even have to power to control minds. We are often tricked into believing that the only ways to communicate are through conventional processes. If a spirit is energy then that energy can manipulate much more than your hand like in automatic writing. All a spirit would need to do is manipulate that sensory neuron in your brain that fired the aroma of your fathers cigar. Since the memory is stored and reincarnated when the cells die the aroma and memory attached to it are always there.
It has long been one of man’s beliefs that different scents effect us on many levels including the spiritual. One of the main reasons for perfumes and colognes is this belief. Here is a brief list of scents and their beliefs or effects.
- APPLE: Peace of mind, relaxation, love, wisdom.
- BAYBERRY: Luck to the home, money to the pocket.
- BURGAMOT: Protection from harm.
- CEDAR: Instills confidence, protection from misery and misfortune.
- CINNAMON: Raise and enhance spiritual vibrations, stimulate clairvoyance, aids focus and concentration, good for personal protection.
- CITRONELLA: Attracts friends and customers, protection from insects.
- CLOVE: Strengthens memory, protects from hostile negative forces.
- EUCALYPTUS: Promotes healing of any hurt, depression or illness. Especially good for colds or flu.
- FRANKENCENSE: Frees one of obsessions and destructive habits, brings spiritual blessings, protects, exorcises, purifies.
- HELIOTROPE: Increases clairvoyance, assists meditation, protects from physical harm.
- HONEYSUCKLE: Aids in understanding non-physical realities, sharpens intuition, brings prosperity.
- JASMINE: Psychic protection, cleanses the aura, stimulates – creativity and originality, attracts spiritual love.
- LAVENDER: Frees from emotional stress, brings inner calm and peace, gives increased awareness, brings stability and permanence, good for headaches.
- LEMON: Evokes protective spirits.
- LILAC: Helps recall past lives, draws good spirits, helps decision making, improves memory.
- MUSK: Instills self assurance, confidence and strength, heightens passions.
- MYRRH: Guards against evil, brings peace, assists in understanding personal sorrow.
- ORANGE: Brings harmony, raises power.
- PINE: Cleanses, ends useless recriminations.
- ROSE: Unconditional love, peace, harmony, tranquility.
- SAGE: Powerful clearing and cleansing, removes negative energy.
- SANDALWOOD: Stimulates clairvoyance, aids in seeing past lives, healing, clearing, protection, calms the mind.
- SWEETGRASS: Invokes spiritual blessings, aids transformation.
- VANILLA: Vitalizes energy, brings happy occasions to the premises, draws good fortune.
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