Sunday, 19 November 2017

Mammal brains identify type of scent faster than once thought


November 14, 2017

It takes less than one-tenth of a second—a fraction of the time previously thought—for the sense of smell to distinguish between one odor and another, new experiments in mice show.

In a study to be published in the journal Nature Communicationsonline Nov. 14, researchers at NYU School of Medicine found that odorants—chemical particles that trigger the sense of smell—need only reach a few signaling proteins on the inside lining of the nose for the mice to identify a familiar aroma. Just as significantly, researchers say they also found that the animals' ability to tell odors apart was the same no matter how strong the scent (regardless of odorant concentration).

"Our study lays the groundwork for a new theory about how mammals, including humans, smell: one that is more streamlined than previously thought," says senior study investigator and neurobiologist Dmitry Rinberg, PhD. His team is planning further animal experiments to look for patterns of brain cell activation linked to smell detection and interpretation that could also apply to people.

"Much like human brains only need a few musical notes to name a particular song once a memory of it is formed, our findings demonstrate that a mouse's sense of smell needs only a few nerve signals to determine the kind of scent," says Rinberg, an associate professor at NYU Langone Health and its Neuroscience Institute.


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