|Image courtesy of senseofsmell.org|
Axel and Buck clarified the intricate biological pathway from the nose to the brain that lets people perceive and recognize smells. A whiff of an odor brings a mix of different molecules into the nose, where each molecule activates several odor receptors. The brain interprets this pattern of activation, letting people recognize and form memories of about 10,000 different odors, the Nobel Assembly said.
The sense of smell helps detect qualities people regard with an emotional tag and the smell of a single item activates a whole array of odorant receptors. The work could affect areas as diverse as psychology, to explain why scents often trigger memories, and cooking, because scent and taste are intimately connected.