Don’t underestimate the power of your nose. It makes our daily dining experience enjoyable and interesting and it warns us of spoiled food, clogged wine and the dangers of gasoline and smoke for example. It evokes strong emotional reactions, influences the attraction of beings for each other and contributes to our feeling of well-being.
Many people think we do all of our tasting with our taste buds, but they can’t detect if something is sweet, salty, bitter, sour, or bitter. In fact, we also “taste” with our nose, eyes and ears.
The taste or, more correctly, the overall flavor that we perceive when we eat our favorite meal, is a combination of the signals that we receive from all of our senses. It’s the brain’s job to interpret these signals and tell us if the food is up to snuff, the potatoes are burnt, the cabbage is overcooked, or the fruit is ripe.
These aromas are detected by receptors at the back of the nose which transmit signals to the olfactory bulb where the signals are gathered and sorted. The information is then sent to the brain which tells us the quality and intensity of the aromas (or smells) around us and in the food we eat.
About 5% of the population is anosmic, meaning they cannot smell. It can be devastating. Imagine your food just doesn’t taste like anything apart from a little sweet and a little salty. You can no longer enjoy your favorite foods and eating out is no longer fun. Also, you can’t smell moldy bread, curdled milk and if the house has caught fire. And a question that haunts the anosmic is: do I smell? These anxieties often lead to an isolated lifestyle, depression and a decline in mental health.
Some people are born without an olfactory bulb, the organ that was previously considered essential for the perception of smell. While performing brain imaging, a group of researchers realized that one of their normal control subjects had no visible olfactory bulb, but they got normal scores for standardized smell tests. . They found that 0.6% of all women can smell perfectly fine without an olfactory bible. This percentage reaches 4.3% among left-handed women. But if you’re a man without an olfactory bulb, studies suggest you’re destined for a life of tasteless food.
The common cold is a well-known thief of our sense of smell, although usually temporary. Yet for some people, their sense of smell does not return after a viral infection such as the common cold, sinus infection, or upper respiratory infection. Recovery can take several years and is not even guaranteed.
Most people develop parosmia (an inability of the brain to correctly identify a smell) during the early stages of recovery, when a few daily smells return, but in a distorted and generally repulsive way. These new smells are incredibly difficult to define, but attempts to describe these sensations often include words like burnt, rotten, or sewer.
One exercise that helps anosmics regain their sense of smell is “smell training.” Researchers believe that systematically exercising olfactory neurons stimulates growth and repair, much in the same way that physical therapy promotes wound healing. The technique was pioneered in Germany and involves actively sniffing (and focusing) on different smells at least twice a day for several months.
In a recent study of the elderly, smell stimulation showed not only an improvement in their olfactory function, but also their verbal function and general well-being, demonstrating that smell stimulation is a good way to improve the quality of life of the elderly.
Have you ever been amazed at the ability of dogs to follow scents that are imperceptible to us? Research in 2017 showed that, in fact, we can too. We don’t have the advantage of optimized airflow through a dog’s nose, but if we practice a bit and hone our level of olfactory sensation, we can effectively follow a trail of chocolate aroma. left across a field.