We’ve all had this experience, more than once: remembering something when we smell a perfume. It’s a unique, almost magical feeling. The answer lies in one of our precious five senses: smell and its evocative power. Of all the senses, the olfactory system is the oldest phylogenetically and is, perhaps, the one that best guards its secrets, as we still know little about it. We’re certain of one thing, though: compared to sight or speech, it has the ability to make memories last longer. A specialism that, in actual fact, ascribes a great deal of importance to perfume is neuromarketing, 35% of what we smell is better remembered, compared to 5% of what we see, 2% of what we hear, and 1% of what we touch. Memories linked to a scent are stored in our brain permanently, creating olfactory memory “boxes”. Common sense would dictate that the nose is the true star of the olfactory process. This, however, is not true, since the information collected and processed by the nose is conveyed to a more central structure of the brain, known as the olfactory cortex. It’s at this stage that the descriptions of smells start becoming personal and veer away from differences in chemistry. That’s where memory comes into play. The new associations made in the olfactory cortex are less representative of chemistry and more a reflection of the subject’s previous experiences. This happens because past experiences change the way in which the olfactory cortex’s neurons exchange the chemical information they have received from the nose. To give you an example: on smelling an orange, everyone’s first impression will be of a citrusy smell (we are able to chemically tell that a lemon has different olfactory notes from a flower). When, however, the smell reaches the olfactory cortex, it becomes something much more personal for everyone: some will associate it with their childhood home in Sicily (land of lemons), while others may associate it with a negative and unpleasant childhood memory. Scents make us remember; memories change our mood. Scent has a direct effect on the limbic system that forms the brain’s “pleasure centre” and which supports various psychological functions, such as the emotions, behaviour, long-term memory, and smell. The limbic system works by influencing the endocrine system and the autonomous nervous system, recording the feelings aroused by smell; some of them, such as those that relate to well-being and pleasure, are, to coin a phrase, “imprinted”. Scent has an immediate effect on the brain’s emotional centre, hence its remarkable ability to move us. In fact, it’s easy to understand how, by smelling the right scent, our brain’s mood is conditioned and we’re more likely to react positively to life events. There is, therefore, a special link between the nose and the brain, that also stimulates all the other senses and triggers an immediate emotional response in us. Would you ever sleep in a hotel that doesn’t smell good to you? Whose smell maybe brings back negative memories and that would, therefore, make you get up on the wrong side of the bed? That’s why it’s important that each one of us chooses the right for: Room and home fragrance and perfume: it can help improve our mood on a daily basis and make us get along better with our nearest and dearest. What’s more, choosing specific perfumes for the various rooms (e.g. bathroom, dining room, bedroom, hallway, etc.) can evoke pleasant feelings. Perfume for our wardrobes and drawers: clothes are our constant companions throughout the day. A lovely fresh scent on clothes can make us feel better when we’re around other people and increase our appeal when we meet someone for the first time. Car air fresheners: as we’ve become totally dependent on it, cleaning the car and making it smell nice with the help of a good deodorant could make the commute a lot less boring! That’s because only we know the scent that makes us feel better! Ready to have your mind blown? Did you know that a good perfume can even make people more attractive? A study published in the journal PlosOne by the researchers of Philadelphia’s Monell Chemical Senses Center and of the Department of Neuroscience of Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute showed that perfume has a powerful effect on the brain, sometimes tricking it into thinking that people look younger and more beautiful. Follow my advice: go beyond creams, make up and haircare…a good perfume is certain to make you more appealing and beautiful, and fill you with joy! ? Article written in collaboration with the psychologist Jessica Talpo.