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What Is Our Sense Of Smell Capable Of? - Self-development
What Is Our Sense Of Smell Capable Of? - Self-development

Video: What Is Our Sense Of Smell Capable Of? - Self-development

Video: What Is Our Sense Of Smell Capable Of? - Self-development
Video: How to master your sense of smell - Alexandra Horowitz 2023, March

Smell is one of the five human senses, with the help of which he cognizes the world around him from birth. With its help, a baby receives much more information in the first month of life than visually. Although the loss of smell is relatively easily tolerated, in older adults, the inability to smell means decreased appetite and accelerated aging. How do smells affect our emotions, physical and mental state? What is our sense of smell capable of?

Smelling is an ancient feeling. Despite its ubiquity and deep roots, the importance of smell is easy to ignore.

  • First, because a person lacks the verbal ability to describe the scent itself. We can describe objects in detail through their color, shape, size, and texture. Sounds come complete with volume, pitch and tone. It is almost impossible to describe a scent without comparing it to another familiar scent. We cannot fix aromas, except with the help of the scent itself - the smells remain elusive.
  • Second, our brain may be lagging behind in assessing odors. For all other senses, sensory sensations are delivered directly to the thalamus, the "large distribution board of the brain," and from there go to the primary sensory cortical layers. But olfactory sensations travel through other areas of the brain, including memory and emotion centers, before reaching the thalamus. That is, the scheme of processing and perception of aromas, in contrast to other sensory sensations, is exactly the opposite. However, the features of processing this sensory signal are not all. A whole set of internal and external factors actively influence how we perceive a certain aroma and how the olfactory picture as a whole is built.

Feeling of hunger affects the perception of smell

Hunger, for example, can affect the perception of smell. Researchers from the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom published an article in Chemical Senses that people tend to be more sensitive to any odor when they are hungry. But, surprisingly, they are better at detecting food-specific odors after a full meal. The study also found that overweight people are much more sensitive to food odors than thin people.

Our memories and previous experiences also affect our perception of smells. For most people, the smell of cow dung is unpleasant. But for people who grew up in the countryside, dung can evoke a strong sense of nostalgia. Europeans and Americans do not like the smell of seaweed, while the Japanese find their scent appealing.

Coffee aroma enhances analytical skills

Scientists at Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT) have shown that the smell of coffee enhances the analytical skills of people taking adaptive tests in business schools. The experiment involved nearly 100 business class students. They were divided into two groups. The first group was to take the Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT) in algebra in an auditorium that smelled of coffee. The control group took the same test, but in an odorless classroom. It turned out that the group from the "coffee" room passed the test much better.

Scientists suggested that students subconsciously expected the smell of coffee to increase their own productivity. To test this theory, an additional survey was conducted on the effect of fragrances on human activity. In principle, the theory was confirmed. Indeed, most people believed that the aroma of coffee increased their ability to solve intellectual problems, making them more energetic and alert.

Context changes our relationship to smells

That is, context is important. And this can be tested with a simple joke example: if you put a piece of old aged Parmesan in a bag and say that the child has just vomited there, then people will recoil from this bag in disgust. But if you say that this is a European high-quality cheese that you have obtained with difficulty, then those around you will crawl into the bag with their noses and begin to sniff with enthusiasm. The same scent will evoke different sensations depending on the context.

This phenomenon has consequences that go beyond joking with friends. Pamela Dalton, Ph. D., a faculty member at the Monella Center, recently discovered that expectations about scent do affect physical health. She sniffed the aroma she synthesized for asthmatics, who often report sensitivity to strong odors. She told half of the volunteers that the smell could reduce asthma symptoms, while the rest believed that the chemical smell could worsen their symptoms.

Can smells hurt?

In fact, the volunteers smelled a rose-like scent that is known to be harmless even at high concentrations. Yet people who believed that the scent was potentially dangerous reported that they felt more asthma symptoms after inhaling it. The scientist's expectations were justified: indeed, the reason was not only in the heads. Those volunteers who expected the worst actually experienced increased inflammation in the lungs, while those who believed that the smell was beneficial did not change the condition. Even more striking, the increased levels of inflammation persisted for 24 hours.

Researcher Dalton points to the main cause of this phenomenon - the stress response. “We know that there is a way in which stress can trigger this kind of inflammation,” she says. “But we were genuinely surprised that a simple warning that a scent could be harmful could have such a significant effect.” The more thoroughly and carefully researchers study smells, the more evidence they have that smells affect our emotions, our physical and mental state.

Fragrances most often act in context, and not in isolation, that is, we perceive them simultaneously with incoming sound and visual information, as well as together with tastes. The relationship between taste and smell is well known. But scientists are increasingly realizing that the sense of smell mixes with other senses in unexpected ways. Until recently, we basically studied each sense in isolation, using visual cues to understand vision, auditory cues to understand hearing, and so on. But in real life, our feelings do not exist in a vacuum. We are constantly bombarded with bits of information coming from all our senses at the same time.

Smells make us look closer

People perceive odors differently depending on the other sensory inputs they receive. For example, when a person looks at a photograph of a rose while simultaneously smelling the scent of rose oil, he or she judges the scent to be more intense and more pleasant than if he smelled rose oil while looking at a picture of peanuts. So Lundström, PhD, proved that visual data affects our sense of smell, and other researchers found the opposite is also true: smells affect our ability to process visual stimuli.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, describes an experience in which scientists (Chen and her colleagues) simultaneously presented two different images to a subject's eyes. One eye looked at the image of the marker, and the other eye was shown a rose. In this state, the subjects perceived two images in turn (binocular competition). However, smelling the marker during the experiment, the subjects perceived its image with priority over a longer period of time. The same thing happened when they smelled a rose, the congruent scent prolonged the visibility of the image.

To become easier simply with the scent of flowers and spices

Alan Hirsch, MD, director of the Taste and Smell Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, has been intriguing to explore the relationship between odors and visual perception. He asked the men to rate the weight of female volunteers when they smelled differently or smelled nothing at all. Some fragrances did not have a noticeable effect on men's perception of their weight, but if men smelled perfume with floral notes and spices, they would lower the weight estimate by an average of four pounds. Even more intriguing, the men who described the aromas of the spicy flowers as pleasant perceived the woman as weightless - 12 pounds lighter.

Want to look five years younger? The flavor of grapefruit will help

During the study, they found that volunteers who smelled grapefruit scent rated women as five years younger on average. While the smells of grapes and cucumber did not affect the perception of age. Why exactly grapefruit had such a powerful effect is not yet clear.

In the latest study, Dr. Hirsch quite boldly states that the combined smell of pumpkin pie (that is, not the pumpkin itself, but mostly spices for the pie) and lavender contribute to erections in men, and individually, these aromas had almost no effect on arousal.

Research requires further confirmation. But one thing is clear - scents convey a lot of new information that helps us diversify our judgments about the world around us

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