To enjoy the full Mail & Guardian online experience: please upgrade your browser
Tammy Violet Frazer
12 Sep 2014 16:28
Smells evoke conditioned responses, a learned response to previous neural stimuli.
Opening the doors to my mother’s wardrobe instantly brings back a flood of childhood
memories and unlocks emotions of being a little girl, of being safe and of
loving her. One precise memory is as clear as a photograph in my mind: I can
feel the woolly texture of the shaggy carpet between my fingers as I sit
cross-legged, with my school shoe buckles pressing against my ankles.
perfume clinging to her clothes is called Giorgio Beverly Hills and, after
watching Pretty Woman the
impressionable young me dreamed of Beverly Hills and being an actress.
When we breathe in odoriferous molecules, the olfactory bulb sends signals through
nerves that lead into the brain’s entorhinal cortex, which functions as a hub
in a widespread network for memory.
In France, International Flavours and Fragrances is conducting scent therapy in a
hospital for young women with anorexia nervosa. The women, who are quite
literally scared of food, sit together and smell carefully selected scents that
evoke happier times in childhood. One smell in particular was the scent of a
madeleine, the little shell-shaped sponge cake with a lemony taste. Because the
participant did not have to interact with food and was engaging with a memory,
she was more open to the therapy. Smelling a blotter and then describing to the
group what the smell is and the memories she had from it, allowed her brain to
recall a happier time in her life. It also helped that the scent was of a type
of food, to reprogramme the brain with a good association with food.
Smells evoke conditioned responses, a learned response to previous neural stimulus.
Imagine a man who is in love with a woman who bakes. With her, he experiences
intimate emotions of love and attachment. Later on, they part ways, but every
time he walks into a bakery, or smells the preparations of cocoa and flour,
feelings of love and even longing may be triggered.
In Cape Town I met a woman who is using her applied theatre and psychodrama
training to facilitate art therapy with inmates at Pollsmoor Prison and
together we are developing a scent therapy program. But in this case, it’s not
about using scent to evoke a happier childhood food memory. Here, scent is part
of a platform for prisoners to be able to express themselves through a medium
that might evoke memories: a way of exploring trauma, and a gateway to
expressing and addressing it.
The time will come when we will not be sending get-well cards, but rather a get-well
box of smells crafted to have a restorative effect on the body.
Read more from Tammy Violet Frazer / Frazerparfum.com
Read more from Tammy Violet Frazer
Create Account | Lost Your Password?