Olfaction- The Sense of Smell

Olfaction- The Sense of Smell

Welcome to the Topic “Olfaction- The Sense of Smell”

Olfaction is the nasal passageway and is responsible for the sense of smell—one of the five primary and most important senses. If you have ever walked past a Baskin Robins, you know what bliss our sense of smell is!

How do Olfaction works?

But how does the sense of smell work? The human body possesses 450 different types of olfactory receptors: neurons. These receptor cells consist of axons, a thick fiber. These axons then join together and send signals to the brain via the olfactory nerve. Each receptor cell is designed in a way to bind to specific molecules. When that particular molecule attaches itself, an electric impulse is created that signals the brain stimulating a sensory response, which is how we smell things.  

Uses of Olfaction

But the olfaction does much more than let us sniff the food we eat. Let’s explore the significance of smell in our daily lives.

No doubt, olfaction is the quickest route to our senses; it is therefore employed in our fight and flight response and triggers fear. Our brain has a structure called the limbic system, which regulates emotion. By being connected to the limbic system, the olfactory system evokes specific emotional responses. 

Not only that, the sense of smell plays a crucial role in the romantic aspect of our lives. Did you know that we choose our partners subconsciously based on their body odors? Yes, it is true! Body odors play a significant role in stimulating attraction towards a potential partner. That is probably why your considerable other smells good to you.

Mammals have long emitted pheromones that signal specific responses from other species members. Their most common use is for mating purposes. The smell also gives animals a sense of direction and helps identify environmental changes.

Nostalgia- a psychological consequence of the sense of smell

Nostalgia is also a result of our understanding of smell being linked with memory. Have you ever smelled a delicious meal that instantly takes you back to your grandma's cooking? That is the work of the olfactory system. Similarly, due to the highly emotive nature of smell, the perfume industry uses it as a way to market its products. 

Interestingly, odors can be perceived differently by different people. While smelling the same bottle of Chanel, some may find the fragrance too strong, while others may perceive it to be too light for their taste. Without the sense of smell, we won’t be able to enjoy our lives as we do. 

Loss of sense of smell

During the colder seasons, when influenza robs us of our sense of smell, you must have noticed the food starts to taste bald. Likewise, those who survived Covid know what it's like to lose their sense of smell and, consequently, their sense of taste.

Loss of sense of smell is termed Anosmia, and although it has a massive impact on the quality of life, there is little awareness about it. The loss of sense of smell also marks certain disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. And for us to be able to enjoy the heavenly scents of freshly baked goods is something to be grateful for!

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