Pacific Science Center's new exhibit really stinks

Explore the mysterious connection between smell and memory at the Pacific Science Museum.

SEATTLE - Follow your nose to unlock your mind.

"The pathway from the nose to the brain is very short," said Jennifer Whitesell, a scientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science.

The Pacific Science Center's newest exhibit, "Fragrant Flashbacks," explores the science of memory through the sense of smell.

"It's very different from the other senses," Whitesell said.

Smell is the most emotionally charged sense, traveling through fewer regions of the brain as it's being processed than the other senses.

Whitesell explained it's "directly wired... to our feelings and our memories."

It can also be the most subjective of senses. The perception of a fragrance can differ drastically between humans.

Felicia Maffia, Pacific Science Center's exhibit development manager, said, "Smell is highly individualized."

The Scent Synthesizer, or "Smell Machine," allows visitors to combine fragrances and trigger memories with more than 500,000 unique scents.

"You could add buttery smell to cheesy vomit and get mac and cheese," Maffia said.

Max Stelzner, a gallery visitor, said it's "almost like something from Willy Wonka or Dr. Seuss."

You can also try to guess unidentified smells, some good, and some very, very bad. 

"What kind of memories do they evoke in you?" Maffia said.

Visitors can also write stories or draw pictures to share their own "fragrant flashbacks."

"Often childhood memories can be very strongly linked to smell," Whitesell explained.

The exhibit was created in partnership with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, which is conducting extensive studies into memory and the human brain.

Make your own memories -- and smells -- at Pacific Science Center.

"You remember things more fully when you smell something," Maffia said. 

 

 

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