Friday April 21, 2006

National Sense of Smell Day

The sense of smell can be extraordinarily evocative,
bringing back pictures as sharp as photographs of scenes
that had left the conscious mind.

-- Thalassa Cruso,

Start thinking about smells because Saturday, April 29, is National Sense of Smell Day.

According to a Yale University study, the scent of Crayola crayons is among the 20 most recognizable to American adults. Coffee and peanut butter are No. 1 and No. 2. Crayola crayons are No. 18.

JS Online: A colorful century from Crayola

I'm sure that Play-Doh must be in there somewhere but I couldn't find a reference online. So — what scents are most recognizable for you? What smells evoke memories?

I recall the smell of scented Magic Markers from 8th grade — root beer, licorice, and spearmint in particular. People my age and older would recognize chalk dust. Those who went through school in the past 10 or 15 years are probably more likely to associate the smell of white board markers with school.

I've always liked the smell of tobacco (unburnt, as found in tobacco shops) and the smell of brewing coffee. Fresh mint is lovely. I like catnip, although not to the degree that my kitties enjoy it! Cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, vanilla, and even cloves (to a lesser degree) are my favorite spices (is vanilla considered a spice?). Lilac reminds me of the lilac tree behind our house when I was growing up.

The smell of cooking chocolate is heavenly (one of our grocery stores has an in-store bakery) as is the smell of baking bread — Yum! I personally love the odor of tomato vines and leaves; it reminds me of the tomato patch in our back garden when I was a kid.

National Sense of Smell Day is an annual, one-day, educational program, celebrated at children's museums and science centers across the U.S., and featuring a variety of hands-on, interactive activities. Sponsored by the Sense of Smell Institute, the program "focuses on the mysterious sense of smell; how it works and the important role it plays in many aspects of our daily life". You can also download an Activity Booklet and enjoy the activities with your family, scout troop, or class.

Smell has to do with more than superficial things such as perfume and potpourri. It's a powerful link with our emotions and memories, says Alan Hirsch, M.D., psychiatrist, neurologist and neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. "The quickest and surest way to produce an emotional response is with smell."
Two postage stamp­size smell receptor sites are located at the top of the upper chamber of the nasal cavities, packed with five million yellowish hairlike fibers. When you smell, air swirls over these nerve fibers and is registered in the limbic system and the hypothalamus of the brain.

It's this direct connection with the limbic system, or the emotional part of the brain, that causes scent to stir up visceral reactions in people, notes Dr. Hirsch. After all, who can catch a whiff of floor wax and chalk dust without thinking of grade school? And doesn''''t the smell of a certain aftershave bring back memories?

Such responses are especially strong in women, whose sense of smell is more discerning than that of men. If you have a normal female nose--and are free of the sniffles--you can detect about 4,000 different odors on a good day.

In a survey he did of 989 people from 45 states and 39 countries, Dr. Hirsch discovered that nostalgic odors vary depending on a number of factors. Among the variables were gender, birthplace and year of birth.

Men, he found, tended to remember the smell of meat barbecuing, while women recalled the smell of baked bread. People born before 1930 remembered more natural smells, such as pine, roses, manure and hay, while those born between 1930 and 1980 recalled more artificial smells, such as Play-Doh, crayons and Windex.

The Female Body: An Owner's Manual Nose

National Sense of Smell Day ( in category Noteworthy ) - posted at Fri, 21 Apr, 00:43 Pacific | «e»