How do we smell?

12th Dec 2018

Brain and neuroscience advances HeaderBecause smelling was not seen as clinically important and it was difficult to classify the stimuli, it was not researched much during the 20th century. However, near the end of the century, some amazing progress was made.

This article by Brennan (2018), in ‘Brain and Neuroscience Advances’, summarizes these discoveries in great detail and how our current knowledge and tools will help us in the future.

One major breakthrough was the finding of the olfactory receptor gene family in 1991, coding for 370 different olfactory receptors in humans. This was made possible by new techniques for identifying sensory receptors. By building on this knowledge, scientists found that while receptors of one type were spread out in the epithelium in the nose, the neurons of the same receptor type would come together before going to the brain.

The identification of sensory receptors also led to a clearer picture of the receptors that can detect pheromones. There have been hundreds of receptors identified that can detect these substances in mice, which can reveal information about sex, hormones, infection and the genetics of an animal.

Past research has shown that the sense of smell is more complicated than previously thought and that there is still plenty that is yet to be discovered.

To access the full article, click here

Brennan, P.A., 2018. 50 years of decoding olfaction. Brain and Neuroscience Advances, 2.

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