Human and non-human animal research converge to suggest that the sense of smell, olfaction, has a high level of plasticity and is intimately associated with visual-spatial orientation and memory encoding networks. We investigated whether olfactory memory (OM) training would lead to transfer to an untrained visual memory (VM) task, as well as untrained olfactory tasks. We devised a memory intervention to compare transfer effects generated by olfactory and non-olfactory (visual) memory training. Adult participants were randomly assigned to daily memory training for about 40 days with either olfactory or visual tasks that had a similar difficulty level. Results showed that while visual training did not produce transfer to the OM task, olfactory training produced transfer to the untrained VM task. Olfactory training also improved participants’ performance on odor discrimination and naming tasks, such that they reached the same performance level as a high-performing group of wine professionals. Our results indicate that the olfactory system is highly responsive to training, and we speculate that the sense of smell may facilitate transfer of learning to other sensory domains. Further research is however needed in order to replicate and extend our findings.

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