Medical Assistant

Amazing Facts About Your Senses- Smell

Smell may be our most evocative sense. Studies have shown that people can recall a scent with 65 percent accuracy after one year; visual memory sinks to 50 percent after just a few months. And because smells are processed by the same part of the brain thant handles memories and emotions- the temporal lobe- we respond to them witih rare intensity. Decades later, a passing scent may symmon a memory of our first-grade classroom, one so vivd that we seem transported across time and space.

Though not on a par with our canine friends’, the human nose is still something of a marvel. An ordinary person can pick up a whiff of skunk when the amount of scent in the air is less than one ten-trillionth of an ounce. The nose can also determine where a smell is coming from, pointing you- for better or worse-toward the source. Still, our sense of smell is deeply individual: some people can’t smell mushrooms; others can’t sniff out freesia. These differences are mostly genetic, but simpler things- small physiological changes and factors like mood and medication enhance or diminish our ability to detect odor. In fact, it’s believed that we never experience a smell the same way twice, since the sensitivity of our nose changes from hour to hour and day to day.

5 things you may not know about smell:

  1. In general, your sense of smell is weakest in the morning and grows stronger a the day wears on.
  2. Smells can affect your behavior. A recent study showed that people sitting in a citrus-scented room cooperated more in trust experiments and even offered to make more charitable donations.
  3. Your sense of smell becomes more acute.
  4. The ability to detect scents is boosted by estrogen, which is why women (especially pregnant women) tend to have more sensitive noses than men.
  5. Astronauts in space often lose their senses of smell and taste. Because of the lack of gravity, their sinuses fill up with fluid causing stuffiness like from a cold.

Jennifer Kahn, Parade Magazine July 29, 2012

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