Did you know that your sense of smell is the only sense that is not filtered by the cortex of the brain? Yes, that is correct. All others: sight, sound, taste and touch are filtered before we can react to them. Since smell is not filtered, we are unable to consciously control our reaction to it. Though smell and taste are closely linked, we don’t need to be able to smell a food in order to taste it. In fact, basic Biology shows that smokers, who by definition have their appetites suppressed and smell inhibited, are often unable to identify foods that are placed on their tongue if they can’t see it first.
Taste and smell together allow the molecules to enter the body via two senses that enhance the appreciation of food. Though in fact sight is even more important, that is ‘how the food looks’, before we’ll even attempt to taste it.
As children we have a tendency to like sweet tasting foods. One explanation is that there are no poisonous foods in nature that are sweet, thus enabling small children to avoid that which is poisonous without adult supervision. As we mature, we develop our taste buds to accept other options such as sour, bitter, salty and foods that may be a combination of them. This is why many times we don’t like a food as a child but completely change our mind about it later in life.
According to a study from Rockefeller University, the nose can smell at least one trillion distinct scents, although naming them could be quite a different story.
So how does the sense of smell work? Odors enter the nose, they are directed to the top of the nasal cavity to the olfactory cleft where the Olfactory nerves are located and the combination of activated nerves travel to the brain registering all the unique smells that we as humans can detect. The scent cells are renewed every 30 to 60 days and are the only cranial nerve that can regenerate.
Even feelings of fear and disgust can be smelt through sweat, which can transmit the same experience to others, according to a 2012 study published in the journal Psychological Science. Researchers found that women who smelled the “fear sweat” opened their eyes widely in a fearful expression, and women who smelled the “disgust sweat” also displayed facial expressions of disgust. A good reason not to pull a negative facial expression when introducing a new food to a child!
Evolutionarily speaking, smell is the oldest sense. Chemodetection — detecting chemicals related to smell or taste — is the most ancient sense. Even a single cell animal has ways to detect the chemical composition of the environment.
Women are always better at odor and smell identification than men, and every study finds that perhaps because women have a more developed orbital prefrontal region of the brain. It may have also evolved from an ability to discern the best possible mates, or to help women better bond with and understand newborns.
Crossinology encourages you to notice daily how your sense of smell affects your life. Can you smell foods before you taste them? What are your favorite scents? What sense motivate you or help you create a peaceful environment? How does the smell of a co-worker or friend affect your reaction to their communication? Remember, we have every opportunity to change our perception using smell. Take advantage of how the brain processes scent and create the perfect environment that motivates you, calms you and brings success your way through all the smells you enjoy!