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Most people pay little attention to their sense of smell. It just goes about its business identifying, categorizing and memorizing thousands of different odors each time we breath. Every day we breathe an average of 23,040 times and flood our smell receptors with over 238 cubic feet of air, yet rarely do we take any notice unless, of course, it’s an erotic perfume or a dead skunk.
Long ago relegated to the bottom of the sensory pile, our sense of smell is going through a revolution and emerging as the new medical frontier. Recently, health-conscious baby boomers have joined the movement by tapping into the power of the olfactory sense as an easy and personal way to improve their health and well being.
To help you get more acquainted with the enigmatic sense, this is the second of a two-part article called, 24 ‘Gee Whiz’ Facts about Your Sense of Smell.
It works 24/7.
Since birth, your smell receptors have catalogued every scent that passed through your nostrils. Although the neurons in our nose are continually regenerating, they maintain the same connections as their ancestors. The result is that once we learn a smell, it always smells the same – despite the fact that there are always new neurons smelling it!
Your nose smells directionally giving you information on where an odor originates.
Once an odor has been brought to your attention, you intuitively turn your head (and thus your nose) in the direction to where odor is coming from. This intensifies the odors and provides additional information for the possibility of a resulting action. For instance, smoke would alert you to a potentially dangerous situation or the delight of a barbecuing steak.
It works in the opposite direction to the other senses.
The brain processes sensory information delivered through sight, sound, taste and touch by identifying the incoming information first, which in turn triggers an emotional reaction. But our sense of smell is different. It does the opposite. The information of incoming odors are first processed by the emotions and subsequently identified.
Our sense of smell is least acute in the morning and increases as the day wears on.
Smell has the strongest recall ability.
People can recall smells with 65% accuracy after a year, while the visual recall is only about 50% after just three months. This is why the feeling of a lover can linger, even if you can not remember what they looked like.
Body odor is linked to sexual orientation.
Gay men preferred odors from gay men and straight women. Odors from gay men were the least preferred by straight men.
No two people smell the same scent in exactly the same way.
This just might mean that there is one person (and one smell) for everyone – a smell mate instead of a soul mate?
Unlike our other senses, the olfactory sense relies solely on mass, not energy, to trigger a responsive action.
We are taught to look and listen. Why not to smell?
One obstacle with smell is the lack of a language to describe what it is that we smell. For example, what does a rose smell like? We have thousands of different hues to describe colors and the scale to understand the language of music. But smells remain locked within our own interpretations.
All smells have an arousal component.
When you smell something favorable or not, that message is sent directly to your brain and into your limbic system – where feelings of pleasure and happiness are derived. Anything you smell directly affects your levels of arousal because of this instant messaging system.
Odors have no meaning prior to experience with them.
Our sense of smell is fully developed at birth.
Newborns are able to recognize the smell of their own mother's breast with days after birth.
Luke Vorstermans is the co-founder of The Sense of Smell Lab, a world leader in the development of innovative products that use our sense of smell to influence behavior, trigger memories, manage cravings, enhance moods and improve sexual health. Learn more about enhancing your sex drive with the unique Scentuelle patch.