This is a simple way of getting students to talk about their ability to detect aromas and to link to the limbic area of the brain.
- Put a piece of cotton wool about the size of a walnut into each McCartney bottle.
- Add a few drops of food flavouring to each
- Seal the bottle
- Get the students to sniff the bottle to see whether they can identify the smell.
Typical aromas include; almond, passionfruit, lemon, orange, strawberry, raspberry, chocolate, cinnamon but there are many that can be used.
Students may find almond difficult until clues are given and they often suggest marzipan but I like them to get the nut. Passionfruit is difficult until you mention J2O!
These enable you to link the sense of smell with the memory part of the brain.
The Science behind it all
Your sense of smell is more powerful than you think. This experiment enables you to link your sense of smell with the memory part of your brain.
Inside your nose there are millions of special receptors called olfactory epithelium. Your brain can recognise approximatley 10,000 different smells thanks to a combination of these receptors.
Sniffing each of the bottles allows odor molecules to stimulate these receptors, sending a signal along the olfactory nerve all the way to the olfactory bulb on the front part of your brain. The signals are then sent on to other parts of your brain to interpret what the smell means.
Ever smelt something burning? Within seconds, your brain recognises the smell and interprets it so you know that there is a problem. That is why the almond smell might remind you of marzipan or the passionfruit one might be hard to guess until you think of J20!
Beyond the science
Your sense of smell can also be used to trigger emotional memories. The olfactory bulb is a part of your limbic system, an area closely associated with memory. It has direct access to the amygdala which processes emotion and the hippocampus which looks after associative learning. This enables you to link a smell to a certain event, person, thing or even moment which creates a conditioned response. Next time you come across the smell your brain will recall this link and trigger an emotional response.