You’ve probably heard the word amygdala before, but do you remember what it is? Found in the brain’s complex limbic system, the amygdala is an almond-shaped mass that deals with emotional responses, especially negative ones like fear and disgust. Think of it as a lighthouse keeper that’s sending out warnings when dangerous situations arise. It also helps secrete hormones and regulate memories.
Another key part of the limbic system is called the hippocampus. This tiny nub is like the librarian of our brain. It indexes, files, and retrieves our memories (probably while wearing a tiny sweater vest!). It also helps to form long- and short-term memories.
The hypothalamus is another helpful figure in our limbic system. This part of our brain is the engineer that keeps many of our systems running. Body temperature? The hypothalamus is on it! Sleep regulation? It’s got your back. Metabolism, adrenaline, and hormones are also part of its job description. It’s an important emotional centre, controlling the molecules that make you feel exhilarated, angry, or unhappy. Some even consider this little guy the epicentre of the mind/body connection!
Imagine all those powerful parts of the brain working together to process a scent—maybe it’s freshly baked bread or newly cut grass. This is why smell can trigger long-forgotten experiences in an instant. In fact, several studies have shown that smells trigger more intense and vivid emotional memories than pictures. This is why the science behind aromatherapy is so powerful: Our brains are doing a million complex, powerful, amazing things with scent every day!