Aroma Science: The Link Between Your Nose and Your Brain

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Aroma Science: The Link Between Your Nose and Your Brain


Of the five senses, our sense of smell might be the easiest to dismiss. We are told, after all, that compared to many animals, our noses are sub-par. However, smell is connected directly to the limbic area of the brain, which controls the body’s response to outside stimulus. All other sensory input is routed through another part of the brain first.

Smell can be considered our most primary sense. Scientists continue to study what we can learn from the nose and our sense of smell.

Parts of the Nose

The nose has two nostrils, or napes, which lead to the two nasal cavities. These cavities are separated by a wall of cartilage known as the septum. The cavities lead to the sinus cavities, a system of canals and pockets of air responsible for breathing, smelling, and tasting. This is also the first line of the body’s immune system’s defense. The nose is lined with cilia, hair like projections, and the sinuses create mucus. Together, these work to collect particles before they enter the rest of the body.

The olfactory cleft, on the roof of the nasal cavity, is used for “smelling”, and the olfactory bulb and fossa make up the “smelling” part of the brain. Smells are picked up by some of the 450 olfactory receptors in the nose and then travel to the brain.

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Memories: What the Nose Knows

When an odor molecule binds to a receptor, an electrical signal travels from the sensory neuron to the olfactory bulb. The piriform cortex works to identify the smell and this information is sent to the thalamus: the “senses” center of the brain. The thalamus sends this information to the hippocampus and amygdala, brain regions involved in learning and memory. This is why smells are so deeply connected with certain memories. In fact, certain scents may help you remember facts better – something to keep in mind while studying!

Emotional Wellness

From our memory, to our immune system, to our learning ability, smell has an importance that is hard to overstate. New research even suggests that the nose can detect over a trillion different smells, thus outperforming the eyes and ears. The aroma of a certain scent or essential oils like doTERRA oils can trigger specific reactions, emotions, or memories. When a scent in inhaled, it goes through the olfactory system and the connected limbic system, which produces a distinct response based on the experiences associated with the smell.

The nose knows! In the future, additional research will doubtless help make sense of this fascinating sense.

By  Eileen O'ShanassyEmbed


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