Language And Memory Image

LANGUAGE AND MEMORY — OUTLINES OF NEUROPHYSIOLOGY

Having an olfactory memory is a fundamental prerequisite considering that we remember smells much more than an image or sound and that these olfactory memories can remain within us for many years.

In fact, smells bring to mind moments lived together with their emotional weight, underlining this emblematic Proustian phenomenon, which is probably due to the proximity of the olfactory system to the areas dedicated to memory.

In today’s society, unfortunately, it is not enough to communicate with a wide audience by expressing one’s feelings from one’s own perspective. This is because the sense of smell and language do not go hand in hand, out of the simple assumption that verbally describing odours with a common key is definitely difficult.

Using the appropriate language becomes essential to describe a sensation accurately so that it can also be identified by third parties.

We must be aware that not all of us have or can easily acquire a technical language to describe a sensation.

As always, the best solution is the simplest. Therefore, an analysis session can be organised using natural raw materials, which unfortunately are not always readily available, to start focusing on a list of descriptors that can be proposed again in other contexts.

On the other hand, it is a bit like running outdoors, instead of being enclosed in the gym and forced on the treadmill; although it would be better to have a roof over your head when it rains.

Having said that, you won’t have to order who knows what products from the most desperate origins, but simply focus on those that recreate the typical scents you perceive in a cup of espresso.

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Building an olfactory memory using natural raw materials will help to better distinguish and recognise the same from “synthetic” ones or altered products.

The typical and above all pleasant scents of a coffee materialise in floral, fruity and spicy notes, but also in more pronounced notes of toasted, caramel, pastry and dried fruit.

If we examine a single product such as a grapefruit, which belongs to the citrus family, we will find that other sensations are perceptible besides the characteristic “grapefruit smell” to describe its complexity. Therefore, at the gustatory level, we will perceive both the sweetness and the acidity, as well as the bitterness in the end, and a certain “refreshing edge”.

Let us remember that what we precisely define as a “grapefruit smell”, has, in turn,  a wide range of odours that come from the countless molecules that make it up and that contribute to forming its organoleptic spectrum.

It is useful to use images or stickers that remind us of the perceived scents that can be inserted into a pattern, which in this case represents our cup of coffee; all this helps to stimulate our perception as well as our imagination and to establish a specific descriptor for the following sessions.

This system is perhaps ideal for the creative, but you can also use the aroma wheels, as we have already evaluated, because they follow a sequence that goes from the olfactory group to the single descriptor, providing useful and intuitive connections in defining the sensation.

If you were discouraged because you put these tips into practice without feeling any improvement, I would say that there is no need to worry. The only thing that separates you from an expert sommelier is training. On the other hand, the same is true for a bodybuilder who has to spend countless hours in the gym to increase his muscle mass.

After all, our nose is an instrument that borders on perfection, so it makes sense to make the best use of it.

An interesting exercise you can do to evaluate the fundamental importance of the nose in both the direct and indirect phases is to take a sip of coffee while holding your nose. You will notice that you will perceive tastes and tactile sensations, but there will be no smell, or rather, no aroma.

Once you have freed your nose from its grip, you will begin to inhale and perceive all the smells coming from the evaporated odorous molecules concentrated in your mouth.

Author

  • Marco Bazzara

    organisation:

    Holding a degree in Economics and a Master degree in Teaching and Didactics, Marco designs training systems as a Sensory Project Manager (SISS), and Authorised SCA Trainer (AST) for the modules Green, Roasting, Sensory, Brewing and Barista, and as a Q Arabica Grader. Since 2017 he's the lead of the Bazzara Academy, the first coffee school in Italy certified as SCA Premiere Training Campus for all the modules of the Coffee Skills Programme. He is the author of several popular articles dedicated to the world of coffee, and contributed to the new book, Coffee Experts. At Bazzara, he is responsible for Quality Control as well as the selection and blending of coffee

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