Odor-Associative Learning and Biophilic Design

Biophilic odors, or olfactory sensory stimuli that reflect nature, have physiological effects (e.g., arousal and improved immune function), as well as profound associations with memory and emotion, impacting both the body and mind.

By Sam Gochman (FULL ARTICLE HERE)

When you walk outside after a summer rainstorm, you know it when it hits you: that distinctly earthy, musty, yet crisp scent that flows with optimism and a desire to be in nature as you take a long, deep breath. It is the smell of rain, known as petrichor, and it is released as raindrops hit the ground, spreading odor molecules from the soil into the air.

The wet ground releases the earthy odor of petrichor along with geosmin, which is produced by bacteria in the soil. Scents like this can cue quick and powerful memories, emotions, and physiological responses. Image copyright Noirhomme/Flickr.

Biophilia, humanity’s innate biological and emotional connection with nature, is utilized in biophilic design, which incorporates nature into the built environment to improve our health and wellbeing. Specifically, a Non-Visual Connection with Nature (Pattern 2 of the 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design) provides an exciting opportunity for design to further enhance our perception of a space. Biophilic odors, or olfactory sensory stimuli that reflect nature, have physiological effects (e.g., arousal and improved immune function), as well as profound associations with memory and emotion, impacting both the body and mind.

Odor-Associative Learning

Olfaction, or the sense of smell, was the first sense to evolve in animal cells and arose as a way to recognize and respond to chemicals in the environment.1 The human threshold for sensing some odors is impressively low – the earthy scent of geosmin (the compound that assists the release of petrichor) can be detected at concentrations under ten parts per trillion2 – and the estimated number of scents that humans can detect ranges from a conservative 5,0003  to 1 trillion.4 Odors are processed very quickly by the human body compared to other stimuli; odorous molecules bind to olfactory receptors in the lining of the nose and send signals through the olfactory nerve directly to the limbic system, the network in the brain responsible for emotion and memory.1

– See more at: http://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/blog/2016/05/scentimental-associations-with-nature/?utm_source=Website+Signups&utm_campaign=80d38ab8e4-May_Newsletter5_13_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_83a051a21f-80d38ab8e4-107743213#sthash.Q0YGJCmo.dpuf