Jonas Olofsson

Wallenberg Academy Fellow 2016

Social Science

Associate Professor
Jonas Olofsson  
Stockholm University

Nominated by
​Stockholm University

How does the brain store olfactory memories?

Researchers’ knowledge of how the brain stores memories primarily comes from studies of visual impressions. Wallenberg Academy Fellow Jonas Olofsson will investigate how we store olfactory memories. A reduced ability to perceive smells may be an early indication of Alzheimer’s disease and there are indications that olfactory training can improve memory.

Researchers have long assumed that the brain stores and brings back memories in a similar manner, whether the impressions are from sight, hearing, touch, taste, or smell. However, there is growing evidence that the olfactory memory is very different to visual memory. For example, it is very difficult to describe smells or to recognize them, while some smells can reawaken strong childhood memories.

To understand how scents affect the human brain, Associate Professor Jonas Olofsson at Stockholm University will observe patterns of activity in the parts of the brain that we now know are important for olfactory memory. Using the very latest methods for brain imaging, he will investigate how smells associate with linguistic concepts (for example how the word rose associates with the scent of a rose) and how olfactory impressions are linked to particular places to form episodic memories. By comparing this with visual impressions he will investigate what differentiates olfactory memories from visual memories.

Jonas Olofsson will also study people with a high risk of dementia and try to understand why olfactory memory often declines early in the progression of dementia. In addition, he will investigate whether smell-based memory training can strengthen the brain and be used to treat people in the early stages of dementia.


Photo: Marcus Marcetic