As human beings, we are able to identify and distinguish several thousand odors. So, what is a “smell”? In fact, almost all smells are a mixture of hundreds of different odorous molecules. The warm and comforting smell of coffee that tickles your nose in the morning is actually made up of about 800 different olfactory substances! When you smell something, you are smelling the actual molecules that make up that scent. These tiny unseen molecules are released into the air. When the smell reaches the nostrils, our brain is not able to identify precisely all the molecules that enter the nose. It only needs a few compounds to detect a specific smell familiar to them.
The Olfactory Perception (Why some smells appeal to you and why some don’t)
In order to identify what you smell, odors need to follow a precise path through several stages in different areas of the brain. This process is guided by a brain system, present in all mammals: the olfactory system.
The Meeting of Smells
When we breathe in, several hundred odorous molecules that were floating in the air enter our nose. The molecule must be volatile enough to be carried by the air and hydrophilic enough to be absorbed by the mucus of our nasal cavity. The molecules therefore travel to the bottom of our nostrils, in our nasal cavity and for a few moments in the mucus, where we then dispel the molecules through blowing our nose or they drain into the throat.
But what if your body can use those molecules for healing?
Some of those molecules are preserved or used immediately by the body to bring on serotonin and dopamine. For example, breathe in some lavender and notice if you feel confronted and relaxed… Then breathe in lemon and explore if it brings on alertness and new found energy for you.
Capture odorous molecules
The detection of odors takes place in the depths of your memory. Here, we find several million olfactory neurons. These neurons are equipped with cilia which constitute our olfactory receptors. Each neuron has a single type of receptor, which is reproduced several thousand times. By the time the odorous molecules are retained in the mucus, the olfactory receptors are activated to capture and detect the smell. Humans have 400 different types of receptors, while rodents have more than 1000 and elephants have about 2000! But this does not mean that we can only smell 400 different scents. A receptor can identify several molecules, and a molecule can activate several receptors: this allows a multitude of possible combinations.
Coding and decoding: reading the smell
In order for a molecule to become an odor, it is necessary to continue the path a little further in the brain. When the molecules are captured, the information about the smell is transmitted to an organ present in all vertebrates: the olfactory bulb. Located between the two eyes and about the size of a large Tic Tac, this area is also composed of neurons capable of deciphering the information received from the olfactory neurons. The bulb will then code this data, building a sort of identity card for each smell.
A fine analysis – Library of memories and emotions
This coded information is then transmitted to the different areas of the brain linked to olfactory perception. It is first the piriform cortex (which looks like a pear, hence its name) that will read the information. This area is responsible for recognizing all the olfactory identity cards. It is this cortex that defines the perception of one object or another. When you smell coffee, the piriform cortex will find the identity card of this odor already recorded. It is here to inform you that you are smelling coffee right now.
The smell is also sent to the hippocampus, the place where our memories are built and stored. It is the seat of our olfactory memory, a real library of more or less conscious events. It sends us back to our childhood as well as to more recent days.
Finally, the information is sent to the amygdala, an almond-shaped area of our brain, which is linked to emotions. It is here that the “I like” or “I don’t like” will be formed. The brain will thus tint the smell with a positive or negative aspect. Whether the smell of coffee comforts you or, on the contrary, disgusts you, it is in the amygdala that it happens.
Olfactory perception, a vital mechanism
All the areas of our brain related to olfactory perception communicate with each other. But it is finally the orbitofrontal cortex, located just above our eyes, that will make the decision. This is the last step in the integration of the smell, which will then lead to an action. To approach a smell or to move away from it, to prefer this perfume rather than that one, to drink or not to drink this coffee. This area is one of the most active for perfumers, who use it assiduously. And it is thanks to this cortex that the sense of smell appears as a primary mechanism, even more developed in our animal friends. It is this cortex that takes into account all the information to keep us away from the danger that an odor may represent.
It is therefore a formidable tool that we all have at our disposal, which we can educate and train in order to benefit even more from the infinite diversity of smells that surround us!
Smell Infused ReLeaf… What do you smell?
Infused ReLeaf is made with an array of terpenes combined to appeal to every cell in your body. It may smell different each time you smell it. Your body will respond and what you smell are the terpenes your body needs or seeks out.
Everyone smells something different! Heal through smelling!!!
Watch what happens when you smell something
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