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date: 19 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The experience of a memory evoked by an odor and the ability to remember odors are two different cognitive-perceptual processes. The latter is the ability to recognize and/or identify that you have smelled a particular odor before. For example, we recognize dozens of odors each day—the scent from the nearby Starbucks or the laboratory floor cleaner. These olfactory experiences are similar to recognizing other sensory semantic cues, the sound of a coffee maker, the sight of your daughter’s mitten, or the feel of your dog’s tail against your leg. These sensory recognitions do not bring back any particular memory event. By contrast, a memory evoked by an odor occurs when an odor triggers the recollection of a specific episodic event from one’s past typically having little to do with the odor itself. For example, a perfume evokes the memory of a relative. Episodic odor-evoked memories can also invoke memory for the door – you smell a perfume and recognize it as being Chanel No. 5. However, odor-evoked memory is when this simple perfume recognition evolves into a full blown episodic memory experience of your favorite aunt. Odor-evoked memories are typified by various characteristics. This chapter examines these characteristics and the possible uniqueness of odor-evoked memory among memory experiences.

Keywords: sense of smell, odor-evoked memory, olfaction, neuroanatomy, episodic memory

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