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The Science Of The Senses : Smell

Apr 17,2015 by Edulab

Smell is part of daily life, which is why it’s shocking that, until the last decade or so, little was known about the intricacies of our sense of smell.

Smell plays an important part in stimulating our desire to eat food. If our sense of smell was impaired in any way, it could result in a lack of eating or ruin the enjoyment we get from our food.

Lack of smell could be indicating a problem such as a block in the nasal passage or a medical illness such as tinnitus.

How Our Sense Of Smell Works

Our sense of smell (just like taste) is part of our chemosensory system.

Smell begins high up in the back of the nose, where millions of sensory neurons lie in the olfactory epithelium. These olfactory cells are connected to the brain and are constantly stimulated by the odours around us.

Each olfactory neuron contains one odour receptor. These receptors are stimulated by microscopic molecules which are released by substances around us. This could be anything from a cup of coffee, to the smell of petals on a flower.

Once the molecules are detected by the neurons, they send messages to the brain which, in return, identifies the smell.

There are two different ways that smells reach our sensory neurons. The first is through the nostrils, and the second is through a channel that connects the roof of the throat to the nose.


Some Causes Of Loss Of Smell

Scientists believe that our sense of smell is at its most accurate during the age of 30-60 years. They believe that, after we turn 60, it slowly begins to deteriorate and we start to lose our smelling ability.

There are several other reasons besides age for a poor sense of smell. These are:

·         Some people are just born with a poor sense of smell and no reasons are discovered

·         Upper respiratory infections

·         Injuries to the head or face

·         Polyps in the nasal passage

·         Sinus cavities

·         Hormonal disturbances

·         Dental Problems

·         Prolonged exposure to chemicals or medicines


Often, people who are going through radiation therapy will also lose their sense of smell for a while.


We hope you enjoyed this short guide to the history of smell as much as we enjoyed writing it.

Here at Edulab, we’re fascinated by everything to do with science, and that’s why we provide an amazing selection of scientific laboratory supplies to meet all your requirements, including physics and chemistry equipment. If you would like any further information about any of our products and services, then please do not hesitate to contact us. You can ring us on 01366 385777 and a member of our friendly team will be happy to help.