With training, a failing sense of smell can be reversed
In a new study scientists at NYU Langone Medical Center have shown that the sense of smell can be improved. The new findings, published online November 20, 2011, in Nature Neuroscience, suggest possible ways to reverse the loss of smell due to aging or disease.
Smell is unique among our senses, explains Donald A. Wilson, PhD, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center and senior research scientist at the Emotional Brain Institute at Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, who led the study. The olfactory bulb, a structure beneath the frontal cortex that receives nerve impulses from the nose, also has direct connections to the amygdala, which controls emotions and physiology, and to higher-order regions like the prefrontal cortex, involved in cognition and planning. "Unlike information from your eyes and ears that has gone through many connections to reach the frontal cortex, the olfactory system is just two connections away," says Dr. Wilson. "The result is an immediate pathway from the environment through our nose to our memory."
Although impairment in the sense of smell is associated with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, and even normal aging, exactly why smell weakens remains a mystery, but recent laboratory research led by Dr. Wilson reveals how it may occur. "We located where in the brain loss of smell may happen," he says. "And we showed that training can improve the sense of smell, and also make it worse."
Dr. Wilson and Julie Chapuis, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow, placed thirsty rats in boxes with a snout-sized hole in each of three walls and exposed them to brief blasts of odors through the middle hole. There were three smells in all: a mix of 10 chemicals from fruits, oils, cleaning agents, etc.; the same mixture with one chemical replaced by another; and the same mixture minus one of the chemicals. When the rodents identified one smell, they were rewarded with a sip of water by going to the hole in the left side wall, for another smell they received water by going to the right side wall.
. Rats could readily distinguish between odors when a chemical had been replaced in one mixture, but when one component had simply been removed, they could not differentiate. The researchers then anesthetized the rats and inserted electrodes into their brains. Within the olfactory bulb, each smell produced a different pattern of electrical activity. But in the piriform (olfactory) cortex, a half-inch-sized area of the rat cerebral cortex, the odors that rats could tell apart produced distinct patterns of activity, while those the rats could not distinguish produced identical patterns.
Drs. Wilson and Chapuis then trained a new group of rats to discriminate between the odors the first animals couldn't tell apart by rewarding them over and over with sips water for choosing the appropriate hole. "We made them connoisseurs," says Dr. Wilson. In the rats' piriform cortex, activity patterns elicited by these similar odors were now different as well.
They trained a third group of animals to ignore the difference between odors the first rats could readily distinguish by giving them water at the same hole after exposure to either odor. This effectively dulled their sense of smell: the rats couldn't tell one smell from the other, even for a reward. Their loss of discrimination was reflected in the piriform cortex, which now produced similar electrical patterns in response to both odors.
"Our findings suggest that while olfactory impairment may reflect real damage to the sensory system, in some cases it may be a 'use it or lose it' phenomenon," says Dr. Wilson. This opens the door for potential smell training therapies that could help restore smell function in some cases. "Odor training could help fix broken noses," he says.
Provided by New York University School of Medicine
- Olfactory bulb size may change as sense of smell changes Jun 16, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Researcher finds elderly lose ability to distinguish between odors Nov 10, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Researchers unlock new secret to how smells are detected Mar 25, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Got smell? Research shows that accurate taste perception relies on a functioning olfactory system Dec 22, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Hunger hormone enhances sense of smell Apr 12, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
Marie Curie's leukemia
May 13, 2013 Does anyone know what might be the cause of Marie Curie's cancer
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
For combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, 'fear circuitry' in the brain never rests
Chronic trauma can inflict lasting damage to brain regions associated with fear and anxiety. Previous imaging studies of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have shown that these brain regions can over-or ...
Neuroscience May 18, 2013 | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
The neural machinery underlying our olfactory sense continues to be an enigma for neuroscience. A recent review in Neuron seeks to expand traditional ideas about how neurons in the olfactory bulb might encode information about ...
Neuroscience May 17, 2013 | not rated yet | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—What if the quality of your work depends more on your focus on the piano keys or canvas or laptop than your musical or painting or computing skills? If target users can be convinced, they ...
Neuroscience May 17, 2013 | 3.7 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Neurological disorders can have a devastating impact on the lives of sufferers and their families.
Neuroscience May 17, 2013 | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
If you're a left-brain thinker, chances are you use your right hand to hold your cell phone up to your right ear, according to a newly published study from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
Neuroscience May 16, 2013 | 2 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Regular consumption of coffee is associated with a reduced risk of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), an autoimmune liver disease, Mayo Clinic research shows. The findings were being presented at the Digestive Disease ...
5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Patients with treatment-resistant major depression saw dramatic improvement in their illness after treatment with ketamine, an anesthetic, according to the largest ketamine clinical trial to-date led by researchers from the ...
5 hours ago | 4.5 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Research presented at Digestive Disease Week (DDW) explores new methods for managing digestive health through diet and lifestyle.
5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
The use of a smartphone application significantly improves patients' preparation for a colonoscopy, according to new research presented today at Digestive Disease Week (DDW). The preparation process, which begins days in ...
4 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
There are significant cost and risk factors associated with two procedures commonly used to diagnose or treat gastrointestinal problems, according to research presented at Digestive Disease Week (DDW).
4 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
An increasing number of U.S. children are experiencing gastrointestinal issues that require interventions to resolve, according to research presented at Digestive Disease Week (DDW).
19 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |