This article discusses the special features of odor-evoked memory and the current state-of-the-art in odor-evoked memory research to show how these unique experiences may be able to influence and benefit psychological and physiological health. A review of the literature leads to the conclusion that odors that evoke positive autobiographical memories have the potential to increase positive emotions, decrease negative mood states, disrupt cravings, and reduce physiological indices of stress, including systemic markers of inflammation. Olfactory perception factors and individual difference characteristics that would need to be considered in therapeutic applications of odor-evoked-memory are also discussed. This article illustrates how through the experimentally validated mechanisms of odor-associative learning and the privileged neuroanatomical relationship that exists between olfaction and the neural substrates of emotion, odors can be harnessed to induce emotional and physiological responses that can improve human health and wellbeing.
Keywords: aromatherapy; autobiographical-memory; emotion; gender; immune-response; odor; personality; psychology; stress physiology.