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How does memory work in the brain?
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Smell and memory

Our sense of smell is intimately linked with the memory mechanisms in our brains.
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The Argument

An evolutionary, strong memory of sense of smell gave an advantage to our ancestors. In the wild, smells can advertise a dangerous food item or predator, and identify safe foods, or a potential mate. Due to the advantage of remembering the experiences associated with smell, we evolved a connection between our memory systems and our olfactory system.[1] The locations of smell, memory, and emotional processing in our brain can explain this link. The olfactory bulb, where our brain processes smell, is located at the bottom of the brain and connects to the nose. Significantly, this bulb has direct connections to the amygdala and the hippocampus, the areas responsible for emotion and memory processing. These connections create a link between smell, emotions, and memory in our brain.[2]

Counter arguments

Smell and memory being linked is simply a coincidence. Smell simply helps stimulate memory, but there is nothing extra special about this connection. Auditory and visual cues help recall memories too, and our sense of smell is no different than these. In fact, we use our sense of smell for information encoding less than vision or hearing, so it is even less important than our other senses in regards to memory.



[P1] Evolutionarily, a connection between memory and smell benefited humans. [P2] Our brain contains links between our memory and olfactory processing centers. [P3] Memory and smell have a strong interplay in our brains.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P3] The interplay between smell and memory is no different than the interplay between our other senses and memory.


This page was last edited on Saturday, 15 Aug 2020 at 01:11 UTC