Index – Science – Why does the world collapse if we don’t smell?

Smell is the stepchildren of sight and hearing exams Concerning: their nature and action, and even their importance, are neglected, although they have an important role. If nothing else, the coronavirus pandemic has taught us how warped the world would be without it. About 65 percent of those affected had an olfactory disturbance (which could be a sudden loss of smell, a reduced sense of smell, or a smell distortion), and those who had such an alteration were unable to appreciate food, distinguish flavours, and many also reported Symptoms of loss and anxiety.

But enough thinking on the first date: If the partner smells delicious, or the smell is disgusting, everything can easily fall apart. In the same way, if we go to a guest house and the apartment is musty, we may not even be able to eat. But it is worth considering the relationship between smell and memory, just like Marcel Proust In pursuit of lost time It also appears in his cake-related novel series and past recall. This is where the definition of the “odour-evoked autobiographical memory” phenomenon comes from. In other words, the sense of smell already contributes to “everyday” perceptual experience.

Olfactory philosophy

According to Immanuel Kant, the sense of smell is the worst of the senses, and even Charles Darwin thought it to be of “very little use” to mankind. But a thinker named Strawson also claimed that his loss has no effect on our perception of the world:

You don’t see the world differently when you have a cold.

the sense of smell It is also very challenging during the examination, because the same odor stimulus can lead to different olfactory experiences. This is why philosophers and scientists often describe smell as a subjective phenomenon based on cultural factors and genetics. The only way to characterize the smell is for the subject to experience the smell, according to philosophers, this is not a perception, but an inner feeling, and feelings of smell are not compatible with anything else, they are not related to anything but themselves.

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Some theorists believe that smell is primarily an internal phenomenon: communication with our own experiences. For others, smell means knowing things in our environment, our friends, predators, and food sources.

Many scholars have treated sounds, smells, and colors as belonging entirely to the minds of the perceivers. William Lycan, one of the first modern philosophers to deal with the nature of smell, says:

Smell is just a modification of consciousness, a qualitative state or event within us.

In other words, it does not connect us to more distant parts of our environment, but it can provide information about ourselves.

Perfume sources

Humans can detect a surprising number of structurally different chemicals. According to recent computational estimates, we can distinguish about a trillion odor stimuli. We also have the interesting property that the source of the odor does not have to be visible in order to relate an olfactory experience to a mental body. For example, the molecule cis-3-hexen-ol can trigger the perception of freshly cut grass even when a person is not walking outdoors.

Many large sources emit hundreds of different volatile compounds that can vary in composition. This change may depend on the chemical composition of the species (in plants) and the difference in the brand of the stuff (eg coffee) or environmental factors (temperature, humidity) and the cycles of development that the organic matter goes through (maturation and division).

But the question is, do we experience a scent differently if its source is not visible?

olfactory function

The sense of smell begins when odorants traveling through the nasal cavity interact with olfactory receptors in the sensory nerves behind the bridge of the nose. This reaction converts chemical information from the environment into electrical signals in the brain. Human genetic diversity relates to genes that express olfactory receptors in sensory neurons in the nasal epithelium, and these differences may have different effects on sensory processing, and with it, on sensory responses to odors. For example, people perceive androstenone, a pig pheromone, in dramatically different ways: some people think it smells unpleasant and smells like urine, others describe its smell as pleasant and consider it flowery, and still others don’t smell it at all.

The same fragrance causes different olfactory experiences in people.

The expression profile of human olfactory receptors also depends on age, diet, and activity levels triggered by the odor, and if people change their diet or habitat, they will be perceived differently by the nose. Olfactory differences can be explained causally by an individual’s biology, cultural context, and personal history, not just by unique internal configurations. Therefore, the sense of smell is very flexible and adapts to the environment, physiological structure and needs of the body.

(Cover photo: Denis Doyle/Getty Images)