Ever walk into a room when a strange smell hits you and all the sudden random memories come rushing through your mind? That’s it, nostalgia in its most bitter sweet form. You can almost feel the air in that memory and take a look around.

After that, your brain goes down a rabbit hole to another time and place. Familiar emotions surrounding the memory of those once close. You were different, the world was different. It’s not the same anymore…

Did you know there’s science behind why this happens?

Scientists believe that smell and memory are closely linked because the anatomy of the brain allows olfactory signals get to the limbic system very quickly.

“Our experience with odors is typically where odor is the backdrop or context for a person, place, or emotional state,” says Pamela Dalton, PhD, MPH, an experimental psychologist and faculty member at Monell Chemical Senses Center. When those are important or salient events, the odor can be strongly associated with the memory—to the extent that re-experiencing the odor often revives the emotions or feelings that were initially experienced, Dalton explains.

Typically the most salient odors are ones that are infrequently experienced, so when they are smelled they have a specific association. “They often are ones that were initially experienced at a younger age,” Dalton says. However, she points out that because everyone’s experience with odor is so idiosyncratic and personal, the actual olfactory trigger can vary enormously from person to person.

So, what does your memory smell like and does it make you triggered?

One day I’ll write a book because there are so many of these to choose from. This image smells like sea salt and barnacles. To be continued…