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What’s in a smell?

How smell works

How smell works
  • Odour molecules that move through the air up your nostrils will bind to special smell receptors on the surface of nerve cells.
  • The nerve cells send a signal to the brain's olfactory bulb, that is behind the bridge of the nose.
  • People have about 400 different smell receptor types.
  • The odour molecules create a pattern of activation in the nerve cells that the brain translates as a smell.

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What’s in a smell?

What’s in a smell?

https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/whats-in-a-smell/

sciencefocus.com

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Key Ideas

How smell works

  • Odour molecules that move through the air up your nostrils will bind to special smell receptors on the surface of nerve cells.
  • The nerve cells send a signal to the brain's olfactory bulb, that is behind the bridge of the nose.
  • People have about 400 different smell receptor types.
  • The odour molecules create a pattern of activation in the nerve cells that the brain translates as a smell.

How we react to certain smells

  • Smells can alert us about danger - we're repulsed by the smell of sewage and rotting food.
  • We don't all respond to odour molecules in the same way.
  • Butyric acid contributes to the smell of both Parmesan cheese and vomit, so it may smell offputting or appealing, depending on the situation.

When we lose our sense of smell

A complete loss of smell, known as anosmia, can occur after a cold, sinus infection or even a bump to the head.

Anosmia affects the flavour of food. However, it isn't always permanent and may recover naturally or through exercises like 'smell training' to re-stimulate the olfactory system.

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Animal milk is used to create over 1,700 distinct varieties of cheese; creamy Brie, buttery Gouda, crumbly Parmesan, stringy mozzarella, sharp Cheddar, to name a few.

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From milk to cheese

All cheeses start from animal milk, including cow, buffalo, goat, sheep, and even camel.

  • The milk is first warmed to a temperature ideal for microbes to flourish.
  • Next, acid or rennet is added, alongside some 'starter' bacteria that causes the milk proteins and fats to coagulate, curdling the milk.
  • The curds can be drained and chopped into chunks and scooped into moulds.
  • The initial 'starter' bacteria die off over several weeks and other microbes take over to enhance the flavour that creates the potent flavours and aromas.
  • Salt is added to stop microbes responsible for spoiling the process.
  • The 'ripening' microbes break the proteins in the cheese into amino acids, many of which have their own flavour.
  • Particularly voracious bacteria and fungi will break down amino acids even further to produce the truly smelly by-products.
The source of cheese’s flavour

Over the months of ripening, smelly parts can interact in new ways to produce more flavour-carrying molecules, such as a hint of nutty, spicy, woody, grassy, or burnt oats. More fat in the cheese generally makes it tastier.

Flavour compounds typically dissolve well in oils, fats, and alcohol, but poorly in water. Fat-rich foods will therefore cover your tongue with a flavour that lingers.

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Certain smells which are associated in our minds to events or locations from the past, triggers our memories to revisit the same. This association of the past through the sense of smell wor...

The Memory Association

According to a 2004 research, the sense of smell is a complicated process.

  • The olfactory receptor cells send a neuron signal to a part of our brain which is called the olfactory bulb.
  • This multistep process which involves over a thousand genes and the nerves connect to the amygdala of the brain, the area responsible for processing emotions.
  • It also connects to the memory and cognition area called the hippocampus, forming the association.
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Handwashing and mindfulness

Wash your hands with intentions and thoroughness:

  • Stand in front of the sink and release the tension from your shoulders and smile.
  • Turn on the faucet and considering what a privilege it is to have warm, running water.
  • Listen to the sound of the water.
  • Using soap, warm water, and friction, give your hands a little massage, which helps to relieve stress.
  • Wash your hand for 20 seconds.
  • Notice and enjoy the feeling of your clean, dry hands.
Be aware of your hands

Increased awareness of your hands throughout the day can help you avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and nose.