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The Sound of Science - 'Pumpkin Spice'


The Sound of Science - 'Pumpkin Spice'

Jeremy - Welcome to a special fall-flavored episode of The Sound of Science on WNIJ. I'm Jeremy.

K.C. - And I'm K.C. from NIU steam. Autumn always evokes thoughts of turning leaves, cooler weather, and of course, NIU STEM Fest!

Jeremy - For a lot of people, it also marks the return of another seasonal favorite: pumpkin spice flavored, well, everything!

K.C. – So, what exactly is pumpkin spice, and how did it get so popular?

Jeremy - Pumpkin spice generally refers to a blend of aromatic spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. These spices are commonly used in pumpkin pie and other fall treats.

K.C. - The reason this combination of scents has become so popular may have to do with the way our brain processes our senses.

Jeremy - For most of our senses (touch, taste, hearing, and vision), everything goes through a sort of relay station in our brain called the thalamus. The thalamus then sends that sensory info out to the appropriate parts of the brain for processing.

K.C. - But the way we process smell is different. Our olfactory bulb is connected directly to our amygdala in our hippocampus. These two portions of the brain are thought to be important in the creation and recollection of memories.

Jeremy - This means that while our brain selects and highlights the most important information from our other senses, smell and olfactory information may be included for every memory we create.

K.C. - The reason for this is likely because as primitive humans evolved, remembering and recognizing different smells was vitally important for our survival.

Jeremy - Because of this direct link in our brain, smell can be a very powerful trigger for memory. Just a whiff of a familiar scent can instantly bring up a flood of previously forgotten memories and feelings.

K.C. - In the case of pumpkin spice, for many people the aroma of these spices is strongly tied to nostalgic memories of family gatherings and holiday festivities. This has been a special pumpkin spice flavored edition of The Sound of Science on WNIJ.

Jeremy - Where you learn something new every day.

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