Pinky Arya

Mar 1, 2021

4 min read

Sense of smell most powerful or useless?

What happens when while walking on the streets you smell an unusual smell of delicious food which is found only at that place? The first thing that will happen is you will feel like eating it but at the same time, have you ever noticed that a particular smell makes you recall a memory or particular emotions related to it? This happens because the olfactory bulb which is the centre of smell is directly connected to limbic system structures like the amygdala, hippocampus and hypothalamus which may trigger the memory and the emotions associated with it. The sense of smell is the most primitive sense organs in evolutionary history which are even present in single-celled organisms. The smell (Olfaction) or olfactory system is kind of a complex process and not much research has been done in this area compared to other prominent sensations in our body but this system is one of the most unique senses as the sensations go directly to the brain instead of the thalamus like in other sensations of vision, audition, touch, taste.

So, how do we have a sense of smell?

The sense of smell is one of the chemoreceptors of our body. When we smell an odour the chemicals that enter our nasal cavity where olfactory neurons are covered by mucus in the olfactory epithelium. The axons from the receptor neurons project directly to neurons of the olfactory bulb which finally sends messages to the Pyriform cortex of the temporal lobe and other structures of the forebrain about the smell.

What is the importance of a sense of smell in modern times?

To know the answer to this question ask a person suffering from Anosmia (Loss of sense of smell), cold or now COVID-19 where the sense of smell doesn’t work for them. No sensation is most or least significant in our body and the following are the ways that smell influences our daily life:-

  • Save our life by detecting leaked gas, food getting burnt on the stove, rotten food at home or just saving us from toxic pollution around us.
  • The sense of smell and taste is intricately related and in order to enjoy the flavour of food, we should have good smelling abilities.
  • The smell forms the strongest memories hence, it is recommended for students to use the same scent that they used while studying when they are giving exams.
  • These days smell training is used for overall wellbeing and quality of life in older people.
  • Certain aroma like lavender is being tested to relieve stress, anxiety and makes us sleep better.
  • Certain Citrus based aroma improves our mood, boosts creativity and increase productivity.
  • Anosmia sufferers feel cut off from the world and experience weakened emotions.
  • Nowadays we find aroma in almost everything we are buying like cream, lotions, washing powder, soap, etc., so that person gets used to the products and buys them every time.
  • Smelling good attracts other people and bad odour obviously isn’t attractive. But we should make sure that the perfumes we are using are made up of natural products.

But nothing in life comes with some sort of disadvantages. The harmful effects of scents are the following:-

  • All the fragrances are not good for everybody. The same fragrance that suits one person may create headache, allergic reactions in others. Hence, we must wisely choose the scent suitable for us.
  • While choosing the scents or perfumes we should make sure that these are not synthetic ones because artificially made scents can be harmful to us.
  • Some scents used in cosmetic products can also be carcinogenic for us, hence we need to be careful in selecting them.
  • The scents like lavender and citrus-based scents used in aromatherapy must be carefully selected seeing its ingredients and if it's natural otherwise it will do more harm than good.
  • Perfume poisoning is also increasing these days as some of the perfumes are loaded with harsh chemicals leading to its poisoning.
  • Indoor pollution is also increasing these days where the old furniture and paints release harmful chemicals which are becoming carcinogenic for us.

The sense of smell is one of the most underrated sensations in modern times and if given a choice which sense of the body you want to discard it would be probably the sense of smell because it is not as useful as it used to be in ancient days when we used the sense of smell to search for food. But, the sense of smell is as useful now as it was earlier, imagine you missing the smell of a cup of coffee or the smell of soil after rain. Furthermore, it makes our everyday life easier and worth living by giving us the overall experience of life.