Our sense of smell is estimated to be 10,000 times more acute than other senses. Once Aromas are registered, scent travels faster to the brain than both sight or sound.
Aromas can trigger emotional and even physical responses and allow vivid memory recall of people and places. Think of a time a smell has reminded you of something… Maybe your favourite place, a loved one or even a childhood memory. This is because the sense of smell is linked to some of the oldest and deepest parts of the brain.
The physical structures of smell found in the nose and brain are together called the Olfactory system. The sense of smell is a dynamic sense, its effect is not constant but immediate and then it fades.
So how does it work?
Aromatic molecules are volatile meaning that they become gases and spread quickly. We can then inhale them with the air we breathe which is the first step to detecting an aroma.
When the molecules connect with hair like cilia in our nose, the olfactory cells produce a nerve impulse which reaches the Limbic System. The Limbic system is one of the most primitive parts of th
e brain concerned with survival instincts and emotions. Scientists believe that the activity of the nerve signals passing through this region cause mood change by altering brain chemistry.
The nerve impulse eventually passes beyond the Limbic system to the Olfactory cortex, located towards the back of the brain. Here, the aroma will finally be recognised but by this time the brain and body will already have responded to it.