3D_001_Research: Smell (and Taste) and Memory


We were asked to research on how smell related to the memory. After some research, I found out that both smell and taste (with the addition of tactile and thermal sensations) create flavor, and this is the one factor that is greatly related to one’s memory.

TASTE (gustaocception) is the ability to taste and to discriminate flavors.
How does the human sense of taste work? the taste bud on the tongue (papillae) have very sensitive microvili which sends message to the brain about the taste.

Sense of taste
Sense of taste

(check here for the interactive version)

Interesting facts:

  • Four basic human taste are sweet, salty, sour, bitter.
  • In early 1990s, the 5th taste of umami was recognized.
  • Fat could be the 6th taste.
  • The tongue map is not exactly right as there is no clear cut map of which parts of tongue taste what.

SMELL (olfacception) is the ability to sense and perceive smell.
How does the human sense of smell work? 
Odourant stimulates chemoreceptors which gives electrical impulse to be passed on to the brain. The brain interprets the pattern of electrical activity as specific odors and olfactory sensation.

Sense of Smell
Sense of Smell

(Check here for the interactive version)

Interesting facts:

  •  Smell is intimately linked to behaviour, mood and memory as the olfactory bulb is part of the limbic system (include amygdala and hippocampus)
  • Anosmia is the inability to smell that can be caused by sinus disease, growth in the nassal passage, viral infection and head trauma.
  • In 1991, Richard Axel and Linda Buck published a paper on olfactory receptors and how the brain interprets smell. They won the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
    Three percent of a human genes are olfactory receptor type.

Smell and taste with addition of tactile and thermal sensation create flavour. Flavour is the sensory impression of food. This flavour is the one that evoke human’s memory.

And why does smell is the sense that most easily evoke memory compared to other senses?

  • Smell is firstly being processed in hippocampus which is identified as crucial for creating new memories for events.
  • Smell information is transferred directly to olfactory without passing through the thalamus like other senses.



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