Why is it that the brain can generate music with extremely high clarity but not as much with smells and tastes?


Why is it that the brain can generate music with extremely high clarity but not as much with smells and tastes?

In: Biology

Fun fact not everyone can hear music in their mind. At all. Or hear their own voice in their thoughts. Apparently they think in concepts but can’t think words or recreate music or anything in their mind. It’s crazy.

The limbic system is responsible for converting short term memory into long term memory and takes up quite a large portion of the brain. Music comes from multiple sources, primarily hearing, but also sensation of waves shaking your body and sight. There are many avenues to receive that kind of information. In comparison, the sensation of smell comes solely from the olfactory bulb in your nasal conchae (way up your nose), and it is pretty small.

Its kind of like this. Would you prefer to watch Star Wars on a big or little screen. You’re always going to prefer the big screen and remember finer details far better than if you chose the smaller one.

This really varies by person.
Some can imagine smells and taste extremely well and experiment with new flavour combinations in their head.
Other people can’t listen to a song in their head at all, or even picture their children’s faces.
Check out r/aphantasia and r/hyperphantasia to learn about both extremes

I wouldn’t be surprised if it had something to do with your capacity to verbalize your experience with music. We are better trained to describe vocal intonations and words than describing smells and tastes. Professionals who invest a lot of time and effort into taste and smell (think chefs and perfumers) are able to very precisely recall details.

There are people out there that are “super tasters” that have a very high quality tasting ability. I’m sure there are people with a high quality sense of smell.

I am none of these.

Smell is actually the strongest sense linked to memories. But, as with everything, not everyone’s brains were created equally. Others have mentioned that not everyone thinks ‘audibly’.

That being said, if you are doing or experiencing something you want to remember particularly well like hanging out with an aging relative, burn/spray/etc. a specific smell you’d like to associate with it.

The short answer is that we don´t know. A slightly more elaborate one is that smells and tastes have a molecular impact function in a completely different way than sound / music, and the brain therefore processes it differently in memory, abstraction etc.

There’s no one way people’s brains conceptualise information like that, I for one can generate sounds and smells and tastes with equal clarity and quite strongly too, but I struggle with visual images in my head, it feels disconnected and foggy at best. Using an example of a fallen apple next to a tree, I can make out the outlines of objects, think of each component as a concept (the grass, the tree, the apple) or I can visualise things like individual textures, but not any of this combined. When it comes to audio I can hear it as clear as if I just played it back, with whole songs playing through if I want to. I can replicate tastes and textures of specific dishes I had over a decade ago, like how a specific curry tasted and felt like when I was visiting Indonesia in 2008, as if I was eating it right now.
Edit: got age and year mixed up in my head

Smells and tastes are simple *things*, but music is a set of complex patterns. Our brains are designed to learn and memorize patterns because that ability is useful to survival.

I’m a fan of classical music, and I always marvel how so many high level conductors have committed to memory incredibly dense and complex pieces of music. Here is a performance of the well-known [Beethoven’s 9th Symphony,](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJQ32q2k8Uo) conducted entirely from memory by [Daniel Barenboim.](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Barenboim)

MAIN IDEA: Throughout history, processing and more importantly REMEMBERING **VISUALS AND AUDIOS was much more important than remembering smells**.

A lot of the human perception is visual (around 70-80%) and the next big chunk is hearing. When people were **hunters**, it was much more relevant to be able to **see** prey/visually identify a threat, respectively to **hear** prey/acoustically locate a threat.

Plus, it was much more practical to be able to memorise these 2 parameters, as it was easier to educate others. ***(It’s much easier to describe how a thing LOOKS and SOUNDS like than to describe how it smells like)***.

Thus, the parts of the brain where **visuals and audios** are stored are much more developed and can reproduce stuff more clearly, and usually more quickly. It’s a survival skill.

^^ Plus, listening to something in your head brings joy while remembering a smell just makes you want it more.


Hope this clears things out.