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In a conversation between Ron Hruska and his daughter living in New York City, Ron describes why we associate smells with memories:
“Hi Rachelle! I enjoyed reading your tumbler message to me about the dry cleaners smell of your oxford shirt and the memories it stirred up. I walked by a bakery in Warsaw and immediately thought of grandma Rita because of the bakery aroma. When I smell tractor grease I immediately think of my dad and when I smell freshly cut alfalfa in the field I immediately think of my grandpa John. When I smell freshly turned soil in the garden I think of grandma Rose and picking up potatoes that were just dug up, when we were little. When I smell new crayons exposed for the first time by opening their box lid I think of my school days at Dist. 31. These smells are so precious to me. These odors and smells enter the nose and are recognized by the olfactory sensors and the signals are sent to the olfactory bulb that is located right above the eyes. From there the sorted smell information is then sent to the limbic system, the primitive part of the brain that includes areas that control emotions, memory and behavior. As the same information goes to the cortex or the outer brain for conscious thought, it is sent to the sensory cortex to create the sense of flavor. The message sent to the cortex and the limbic system triggers memories that are stored in the hippocampus, and through relational memories your blue oxford shirt reminded you of me. Thank God for the hippocampus! - Love Dad”