Tuesday, July 22, 2014

why your amygdala sucks.

For the sake of not starting off in the same way that everyone else does when writing about this particular topic, let's just assume that yes, we've all had that moment where you suddenly smell something familiar and WHAM, there you are in the middle of a memory like it was yesterday. Got it? Good.

Well, we can all thank our entire limbic system for that wonderful bit. Located in my favorite part of the brain, the temporal lobe, your limbic system is made up of your olfactory bulb (smells), your amygdala (processes your psycho emotions), and your hippocampus (your ability to learn through association). The coolest part, is that all of these things work together to make one big, happy lobe. Your olfaction sense is very slow to process smells; however, once processed, you are not likely to forget it. This is why first smells and repeated smells are important. Your olfaction bulb smells and processes scents, attaches it to a memory in your amygdala, which makes you feel some type of way, and then BAM, it hits your hippocampus and you'll forever think of Z whenever you smell Y. Conditioning, people. It's a big deal.

Whenever I get into thinking about my temporal lobe (which I do more often than I care to admit, because...memories), I'm reminded of a few of my favorite things. The 2001 movie "Someone Like You" has a scene where Ashley Judd is trying to forget her loser ex-boyfriend, and she goes to the doctor to have her amygdala removed because every time she smells vanilla or fresh sheets she's reminded of how happy they used to be and how miserable she is now. The second thing I'm reminded of is Hermione in the Half-Blood Prince, where she's smelling the Amortentia potion and she states that it smells different to each person, based on the things they love. To her, love smells like fresh parchment, tooth paste, and Ron's hair *swoon* <<

But I digress, the title of the post is about your amygdala, not the whole lobe. Your amygdala is what is responsible for you attaching a memory to a smell, and then feeling some kind of way about it. It's responsible for kicking your square in the feels, just based off a measly smell. Crazy. And like most things in life, people don't smell something and think "Oh, that's nice, that reminds me of..." and think about it all day, they move on. BUT, if it is a NEGATIVE memory they have, they go swirling down a rabbit hole of memories that they'd rather not drudge up. Fresh cut grass would be one example that most people have a positive smell from. But do you spend your whole day thinking about a memory with grass? Probably not. However, walk into a funeral home, and you're hit in the face with the smell of lilies, I can pretty much guarantee you're going to be feeling some way the rest of the day. (Someone argued with me that this could be because you smell cut grass more often than you smell lilies in a funeral home, but still.)

Somedays I like my amygdala and we get along. Other days I'd like to go to a doctor like Ashley Judd and ask him to remove mine. For your own personal enjoyment, I've created a list of positive smells, and negative smells in my book. Some of you will easily be able to assume where they come from, others may be more difficult. I've also included an interesting blog about your amygdala and relationships written by John McManamy.  "Relationship Rule #1: Never engage in dialogue with the other person's amygdala."

Smells that set off Alicia's Memories

Car grease/oil
Paul Mitchell Hair conditioner
Old books
Salt Water
Wet dog
Second hand smoke
Burned matches

Wet Socks
Zest soap
Capri Sun
Brand new phonics books (with the shiny pages)
Vienna Sausages

"Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived."
-Helen Keller

Blog Post Playlist:

1. Weezer-Beverly Hills
2. Everclear- Father of Mine
3. Everclear- Buy You a New Life
4. Eagle Eye Cherry- Save Tonight
5. Collective Soul-December
6. Everclear-Wonderful
7. Sister Hazel- All For You

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