Long-Term Memory for Odors: Influences of Familiarity and Identification Across 64 Days

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Abstract

Few studies have investigated long-term odor recognition memory, although some early observations suggested that the forgetting rate of olfactory representations is slower than for other sensory modalities. This study investigated recognition memory across 64 days for high and low familiar odors and faces. Memory was assessed in 83 young participants at 4 occasions; immediate, 4, 16, and 64 days after encoding. The results indicated significant forgetting for odors and faces across the 64 days. The forgetting functions for the 2 modalities were not fundamentally different. Moreover, high familiar odors and faces were better remembered than low familiar ones, indicating an important role of semantic knowledge on recognition proficiency for both modalities. Although odor recognition was significantly better than chance at the 64 days testing, memory for the low familiar odors was relatively poor. Also, the results indicated that odor identification consistency across sessions, irrespective of accuracy, was positively related to successful recognition.

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