When it comes to fragrances, we usually know our preferences instantly. However, have you ever stopped to think about why you are drawn to certain scents? It might be because of the way they make you feel, bring up a pleasant memory or something science is only begnning to understand…
- Triggering a feeling or memory
The reason fragrance can impact us to such a significant degree is because when we inhale a scent, it goes straight to the brain’s smell center, known as the olfactory bulb. Here, it is processed and the information about the smell is passed to the directly connected limbic system. The limbic system is a set of structures in the brain, including the amygdala and hippocampus, that play a role in controlling our mood, memory, behavior and emotion. The limbic system is even known as a “primitive” part of the brain because the same structures were present in the first mammals. This explains why a smell can immediately trigger a detailed memory or intense emotion and is such an integral part of our survival throughout evolution.
- Complementing our own odor
A research coming out of Charles University in Prague proves that we’re not looking to mask something with a perfume. Anthropologist Dr. Jan Havlicek said: “In fact, what we have found is there is a strong individual interaction between perfume and body odor. People choose fragrances to complement their own odor.” Whether we realize it or not, we pick perfumes that smell like, well, us. (Also fascinating: We all smell differently because of our immune systems, and we’re attracted to people whose immune systems are different from our own.)
- Written in genes
Genetic differences appear to explain why some people can smell certain odors and others can’t, researchers say. Using 10 different odors, the researchers tested nearly 200 people for their smell sensitivity and then analyzed the participants’ DNA. For four of the odors tested, there was a link between smell sensitivity and certain genetic variants. The four odors are malt, apple, blue cheese and violets, according to the findings, published online Aug. 1 in the journal Current Biology.
“We were surprised how many odors had genes associated with them. If this extends to other odors, then we might expect everyone to have their own unique set of smells that they are sensitive to,” research team co-leader Jeremy McRae, of Plant and Food Research in New Zealand, said in a journal news release. “These smells are found in foods and drinks that people encounter every day, such as tomatoes and apples. This might mean that when people sit down to eat a meal, they each experience it in their own personalized way,” McRae said.
We at Peïthō believe it remains a combination of these and many other factors – as unique as you are. Perhaps we have just the fragrance that matches your taste!