A study published earlier this year by a team of British and American scientists has found that being exposed to a smell over a long period of time improves the efficiency of a person being able to detect it.
Genetics plays a large part in this, as the scent-detecting organ at the back of the nasal cavity is made up of more than 400 different cells, each specialising in the detection of a molecule expressed by olfactory neurons.
The study found that complex smells trigger diverse chemical receptors, which activate combinations of cells in the nose. It is this strategy which enables humans to identify vast numbers of different scents.
The study was initially conducted on mice, and carried out by geneticist Dr. Darren Logan, who some readers may remember as a speaker from the 2015 Fifth Sense Conference. Dr. Logan’s examined how environment and genes affect how sense of smell is formed. In mice, smell allows them to evaluate sexual partners, predators and food quality.
They also looked at how sense of smell changes over time, as well as how it develops in the first place. The researchers hope that their findings will enable them to study other senses in the same way, and potentially enable scientists to develop personalised medicine, tailored to an individual’s physiology.
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