Lime, lemon, … Cinnamon. One of these things is not like the others!
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.
Familiar aromas can bring back childhood memories — OR send a chill up your spine! But why do things get personal for the brain when it comes to smells?
Stan Pashkovski and colleagues from Harvard medical school wondered. They selected sets of smells with different chemical diversities. One set had similar smells, like lemon and lime. Another was completely different — roses versus pizza!
They let mice take the “smell test” while monitoring their brain activity. The researchers focused on the olfactory cortex — the region of the brain responsible for smell.
Results? Chemically similar smells caused correlated patterns in brain activity. But unrelated odors caused completely different brain signals! Scientists now have a clue as to how our brains understand the relationship between smells.
This could help develop machines that can identify a scent by its chemical structure — a virtual smelling machine!
…to smell that virtual coffee over the next Zoom work call! Pants optional.