Proust nails the phenomenon of “involuntary memory”. This is the way that a sensory experience can suddenly bring back a hidden recollection.
This is now seen as a key insight into the way the senses work – particularly in scent and olfaction.
It bypasses the thalamus, which relays the sensory information, and works directly on the hippocampus and amygdala. These parts of the brain deal with emotional memory.
Olfactory memories tend to come from earlier in life than other means. And as Proust found, they are deep and complex. Hard to identify and harder to put into words, but intensely powerful.
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"An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin.” What makes the Proustian effect so important?
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