What is a lazy amygdala

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The garden therapist Joana Obenauff from Wurzelglück in Magdeburg would like you in this month's contribution with the words of the Russian-American writer Vladimir Nabokov "Nothing revives the past as completely as a fragrance." take you into the world of smells and memories!

"The sense of smell is our oldest and even most vital sense. It had an important function, especially in the early days of mankind. It protected us from dangers such as poison, fire or gases. It enabled us to smell rain and threatening thunderstorms, and helped us to To find water and food and to distinguish edible food from inedible, rotten or poisonous and when choosing a partner he still tells us today whether “the chemistry is right”!

But how does smelling actually work? The sensory stimulus is triggered by fragrance molecules in the air, which we absorb through our nose with every breath - after all, around 20,000 breaths per day for an adult! They are microscopic and are used by every living being, many objects, materials and physical and chemical processes, e.g. B. secreted or formed in the air (during rain and thunderstorms).

The molecules hit the nasal mucosa in the nose, where there are between 10 and 30 million olfactory cells that specialize in recognizing smells. The mucous membrane, which is just a few square centimeters in size, has receptors that can recognize around 400 different fragrances. In order to even perceive a smell, there only needs to be a single odor molecule among a trillion air molecules.

A healthy person can distinguish more than 10,000 different scents. Completely automatically and without our noticing it, every scent is sorted, processed, linked, interpreted and stored in a kind of scent register so that we have “learned” 4,000 to 10,000 smells in the course of our lives.

In contrast to the information from the sense of hearing and sight, the information from the sense of smell does not first pass through the thalamus, an intermediate station in front of the cerebral cortex, in which incoming sensory stimuli are processed. Since some nerve pathways go directly from the nose to the hippocampus and the amygdala, smells reach the limbic system directly and unfiltered, where experiences are processed, memories are formed and events are emotionally assessed.

This is why our memories are so closely linked to smells and smells. They evoke the strongest, most emotional, and most directly user memories. Fragrances and smells are stored together with the information on what, where and when of the event, so that memories are better and longer stored in the memory and are harder to forget. Every smell is therefore always associated with a positive or negative feeling, depending on the context in which we have “learned” the scent. The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote "Man does not smell what is smell without feeling a sense of the unpleasant or pleasurable".

With increasing age, however, our sense of smell becomes weaker and weaker. Even at the age of 40, our ability to recognize and differentiate scents is steadily declining. If illness occurs in old age, the loss of the sense of smell progresses faster and faster - the ability to smell declines particularly quickly in Alzheimer's disease, in the worst case to the complete loss of the sense of smell, which is also accompanied by a loss of memories.

But smelling can be trained and the loss of smell and memories can be stopped. Regular and targeted dealing with smells stimulates the formation of new olfactory cells. In garden therapy, smells are therefore mainly used when working with Alzheimer's diseases. Because nothing stimulates and challenges our brain as intensely as smelling. It is therefore important to regularly and consciously address the sense of smell. Because even in Alzheimer's patients, smells can still evoke very vivid memories that seemed to be buried deep in the subconscious. Being able to perceive, recognize and assign smells and smells again and again is important for memory - for a lifetime.

Depending on the stage of the disease, the short-term memory can already be so severely impaired that those affected can no longer memorize current events. That is why smells are mostly used, which are supposed to activate memories in long-term memory. In order to find out which scents can be used to positively stimulate the sense of smell and memories, it is essential to deal with the biography of the client - it is also important to identify scents that are associated with negative memories, which should not be used in therapy be applied. Only through the biographical work can conclusions be drawn about smells that may be linked to long-term memories - the savory in the mother's soup, the perfume of the partner, the smell of freshly mown grass, the scent of flowers in your own garden, the smell of summer rain Walks, the smell of hay while working in the fields or freshly sawn wood can trigger memories that were thought to be forgotten.

Smells are the key to our memories, to the life we ​​have already lived, to the roots of who we are today! So let's enjoy the scents of nature very consciously and let them become our most beautiful memories! "

If you would like to find out more about the areas of application and possibilities of garden therapy, please contact: [email protected]! Ms. Obenauff offers a wide range of courses, workshops, lectures and seminars on the topics of garden therapy, ecological gardening and creative design with natural materials! She will also be happy to come to you and support you on site with projects and events!