This newly published study may by the most impressive—in some senses—academic publication of our time:
“The ‘Proust Phenomenon’: odor-evoked autobiographical memories triggered by direct amygdala stimulation in human,” Fabrice Bartolomei, Stanislas Lagarde, Samuel Médina Villalon, Aileen McGonigal, and Christian G. Benar, Cortex, epub December 18, 2016. The authors write:
Vivid memories triggered by odors were particularly well described by the French writer Marcel Proust in his novel Swann’s Way (Du Côté de Chez Swann). The sensorial input provoked by the madeleine cake’s odor, flavor and texture immediately transported him into a vivid and rich past childhood episode. Proust constructed a detailed literary description of psychological characteristics of the reminiscence….
A main characteristic of the Proust phenomenon is its unpredictability, rendering it particularly difficult to reproduce in an experimental setting. The present case is the first to analyze the induction of Proust phenomenon by focal electrical stimulation of the amygdala.
If you find yourself impressed by this study, perhaps you have learned something about yourself.
(Thanks to Neil Martin for bringing this to our attention.)
BONUS: Someone named Simon explains to you the cultural significance of madeleines.
BONUS: In this video, someone named Sonia instructs you on how to make a madeleine: