Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Smell

Ever wonder why perfume wears off so quickly? It is there, but our brain does not waste time reminding us because it is so familiar. But if you were to step outside or into another environment, your sense of smell checks for danger and food and reports back. As a result, the perfume scent returns. 

When odor molecules travel through our nasal cavity, their navigation herds them towards the olfactory bulb: from a bird's eye view, it resembles small horns at the front of the brain. From there, olfactory information can take different routes within the brain; to the amygdala, which is associated with emotion and motivation, to the hippocampus, which is associated with memory, and to the olfactory cortex. All three regions deliver the smell information and interpretations to the frontal cortex, the brain region required for cognitive processes like decision making. 

The smell of rain triggers a sense of relief and happiness within me, perhaps this is inherently linked to our species need for water. The sudden scent of Coppertone sunblock, one of my favorite scents, reminds me that summertime is coming. And the Mexican in me just loves the smell of slightly burnt flour tortillas. 

When I first arrived in Lima, the country welcomed me with the repelling smells of piss, sewage, and exhaust. Minus my toilet which consumes the bathroom with a continuous repulsing smell, my brain no longer recognizes the foul smells that penetrated my nostrils in January. I do, however, have to breathe out of my mouth and walk quickly through the animal section in the market. And the horrendous sulfur odor, as a result from the Giardia I had, was an uncomfortable and embarrassing time of my life. 

On the other hand, the scent of the fruit in Peru is so potent, if I put a mango in my room it will seem like I have a Bath & Body Works Wallflower plugged in.  On my way to early morning Yoga, I am greeted by smells of fresh bread as I pass multiple bakeries. When the fog takes over the city, a brisk ocean breeze soars in, allowing me to be present to the almighty ocean. A cloud of chemicals swirls up my nose when I enter my favorite place in Lima: where I work. Aside from it being clean, open, and a gorgeous infrastructure, I get a sense of peace (pun intended) and comfort when I step foot within the guarded gates of the United Nations complex. Thank you, SeƱor Beato for nurturing our gardens; the fresh cut grass evokes a long and steady inhale, aaaahhhhhh. As I make my way to the office kitchen, fresh coffee overshadow all my senses, preparing me for a productive day. I truly love the smell of my routine, which then ends with a lilac scented candle and Suavitel Softener, as I tuck myself in bed. 

Our sense of smell is a fascinating science yet in a survey of 7,000 young people around the world, ages 16 to 30, they said they would rather lose their sense of smell than give up access to technology. It would be interesting to explore if these people had ever been in danger or fallen in love...I miss his scent...with this said, our sense of smell is something to be celebrated and appreciated. 





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