A groundbreaking new study has revealed that our sense of smell is not as simple as we thought. It appears each nostril has a distinct sense of smell, allowing our brain to interpret smells differently depending on the nostril through which they are perceived.
A Unexpected Discovery
It is commonly accepted that we have a single sense of smell. However, a recent study published in Current Biology suggests that we might actually have two, one for each nostril. This study, although conducted on a small sample of only 10 participants, highlighted a noticeable difference in the perception of smells depending on the nostril through which they were introduced.
The participants in this study were epileptic patients who had been implanted with intracranial electrodes to locate the origin of their seizures. With their permission, researchers took advantage of these electrodes to conduct an experiment on smell. They injected three different smells (banana, coffee and eucalyptus) into the participants’ noses, first into both nostrils, then into the left and finally into the right.
A Distinct Sense of Smell for Each Nostril
The results of the experiment revealed that when the smell was injected into both nostrils, activity was generated in both regions of the brain: the left cerebral cortex and the right cerebral cortex. However, when the smell was introduced into one nostril alone, only the corresponding hemisphere was activated. A little later, the other half of the brain was also activated but with a slight delay.
This suggests that our sense of smell is not a single entity but is distributed across both nostrils, allowing us to smell independently. In other words, each nostril possesses its own sense of smell.
The Implications of This Discovery
This discovery has significant implications for our understanding of the sense of smell. It suggests that we are capable of detecting not only smells, but also their source. This is particularly useful for our survival as it allows us to quickly identify potential dangers, such as gas leaks or spoiled food.
Furthermore, this ability to detect the source of smells can also have positive implications in our daily lives. For instance, it can help us locate the source of a pleasant smell like fresh bread in a bakery.
A Less Symmetrical Perception Than Expected
In essence, this study challenges our perception of human body symmetry. While we tend to think that our senses are evenly distributed on each side of our body, it seems that this is not the case for smell. Each nostril has its own sense of smell, allowing us to perceive smells differently depending on the nostril through which they were introduced.
This discovery paves the way for new research on the sense of smell and could have significant implications for our understanding of this often underestimated sense. Ultimately, we may be much less symmetrical than we generally think.
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