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alternating nostrils

August 25, 2009

(CNN) What’s that stench? Nostrils compete for smell

Take a whiff of air. What you’re smelling may not be a combination of all of the things in your surroundings, but actually what only one of your nostrils detects.

New research in the journal Current Biology suggests that nostrils may actually send competing signals to the brain, and that what you think you smell isn’t the whole story.

“When the nostril encounters two different scents simultaneously, the brain processes them such that we perceive predominantly one smell at a time, followed by another smell, and they alternate,” said Denise Chen, assistant professor of psychology at Rice University.

Participants were presented with a rose smell and a marking pen smell at the same time, one scent per nostril.

All of the 12 people in this experiment reported perceiving some degree of alternation between smells, she said, although some experienced the phenomenon more than others.

A test like the one used in this experiment could be useful in assessing and treating people with olfactory disorders, Chen said.

Naturally, as people age, they will lose the sharpness of their sense of smell, with marked declines their 60s and 80s, Chen said. People in their 20s are among those with the best sense of smell, she said.

“Having a poor sense of smell affects quality of life,” she said. (read)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Beast permalink
    August 25, 2009 3:45 pm

    Try combat swimmer without a compass (Sun) you feel like you are going in circles too….

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