The inhalation of vapors, smoke or oils is part of our history, particularly in the shamanic tradition. We find the healing power of aromas narrated throughout the centuries and, currently, it is a topic treated from neuroscience. This is where Neuroperfumery is born, a scientific discipline that explores the worlds of neuroscience and perfumery together.
Joachim Mensing, professor of psychology and sociology, has constructed a neurosensory olfactory map based on the description of the effect of certain olfactory essences on specific areas of the brain, the parts that are activated, the effect on personality and mood.
Citrus fragrances allow us to bring out our most extroverted side, other aromas attract the reward system of our brain and the hypothalamus in particular, and others can also relax the amygdala, the center of fear in our brain, and the
hippocampus, an area vulnerable to stress.
The hypothalamus oversees various functions such as happiness and joy, so its activation is essential for those moments where we experience sadness, melancholy or depression.
Our olfactory experience is very special and can become very intense as it tends to be experienced together with other senses such as sight and hearing. This sensory experience is located in our brain, and is key to the psychology of fragrance selection. Thanks to functional neuroimaging techniques, it is known that different brain regions (regions also associated with personality traits) have olfactory preferences and favorite aromas.
Specifically, the orbitofrontal cortex is responsible for the conscious perception and recognition of smells, coordinating all olfactory impressions and putting them in a general context. Thanks to this process we can enjoy the aromas of perfumes. In addition to this function, it also allows us to relate smells to colors and shapes; for example, it helps us decide if the color of perfume packaging suits a fragrance. And in case you thought that the orbitofrontal cortex did little, it is also in charge of the synesthetic experience and is where personality traits reside, in particular extroversion.
As we have said previously, the different brain regions seem to have aromatic preferences; the orbitofrontal cortex is a “fan” of lightly spicy and invigorating aromatic citrus notes. Some of these aromas are: orange, laurel, and rosemary, which radiate an invigorating and slightly spicy freshness.
In our olfactory brain, in addition to the orbitofrontal cortex, we find the piriform cortex. It acts as “administrator” of the aroma, deciding its effect and smell. It is located near the olfactory bulb and can intensify the effect of perfume and fragrance on our consciousness, our moods and emotions, and also dictates the current to the olfactory bulb, allowing the decision of what to eat and how. This system can even tell our brain not to smell something or to smell it partially, depending on whether or not the piriform cortex categorizes it as something important.
On the other hand, the piriform cortex also decides what, how and where information is sent to other brain regions for further odor processing.
Likewise, it has the amygdala as an ally, which, as we have already said, is a region of the brain in charge of fear. Thanks to functional neuroimaging techniques, we know that if we offer her milky smells, warm leather and wood, and musky notes, we provoke emotional relaxation in her. That is, the piriform cortex tells the brain how to deal with an olfactory stimulus.
The piriform cortex influences our personality and, in addition, being connected to the sense of sight, the sight of, for example, a
lemon improves the olfactory impression. This is called stimulus superadditivity.
In addition to the amygdala, the hippocampus and hypothalamus are also linked to the sense of smell. The hippocampus is basically responsible for memory and long-term learning, which includes olfactory memory. Chronic stress can reduce its size by up to 26%, which is why the hippocampus prefers aromas that offer relaxation and anti-stress prophylaxis; this would be floral notes and soft wood (eg sandalwood).
The hypothalamus and the dopaminergic system also play a fundamental role in the enjoyment of aromas. Their reward centers trigger feelings of pleasure, joy, and fun, and their favorite smells are chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, and fruit.
We tend to think that smell, in humans, is one of the least important of the senses. What happens is that the processing of most odors occurs unconsciously. However, it plays a crucial role in determining mood and emotions.
And this is precisely what we work with at Viti Vinci, with what we call Mood Programming. For example, lavender and rosemary essential oils are scientifically proven to promote a state of relaxation. This is because smelling these scents increases
free radical scavenging activity and lowers the level of cortisol in saliva. That is, they provide protection against oxidative stress. On the other hand, rosemary has been found to produce a significant improvement in overall memory quality performance. Another neuroimaging study, EEG asymmetry responses to lavender and rosemary scents in adults and infants recorded a shift from left frontal to right frontal activity, indicating a calmer emotional state.
In addition to the various essential oils we offer (which are also found in all of our products), our perfumes and cosmetics also offer
this Mood Programming. For example, Flexible Morale offers us calm, self-esteem, daring and has an aphrodisiac component; So Fong offers us harmony, courage and elevation, positivity, inner peace and assertiveness.
Furthermore, our cosmetics are called Neurocosmetics since they increase the relationship between the skin and the nervous system in order to improve skin and emotional well-being.
In short, we still have a lot to learn about the olfactory system and its relationship with our emotional and physical well-being, but it seems that we are on the right track and projects like Viti Vinci allow us to open up and present this world to others.
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