Human Sense Of Smell Is Just As Good As Dogs', Study Says

Posted: May 14 2017, 2:11pm CDT | by , Updated: May 15 2017, 9:36pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Human Sense of Smell is Just as Good as Dogs', Study Says
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It is just a myth that humans' sense of smell is weaker than that of animals

The olfactory power of the human nose has always been underrated. It has been believed that humans have a poorer sense of smell than animals and the myth persisted over the decades without any scientific proof. But new research suggests that humans no longer need to have an inferiority complex about their ability to smell. Human sense of smell is not that bad after all.

“The fact is the sense of smell is just as good in humans as in other mammals, like rodents and dogs. Humans can discriminate maybe one trillion different odors.” Study author John McGann, a neuroscientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick said in a statement.

The myth that people have a weaker sense of smell than other creatures originally came from the work of French neuroanatomist Paul Broca. His writings published in 1978 suggest that mammals’ sense of small can be determined by the size of their olfactory bulb - the neural structure involved in smell. And these olfactory bulbs are relatively small in human brain.

However, McGann who has been studying the sense of smell for the past14 years finds no evidence that the human sense of smell is inferior because of the size of our olfactory bulb. In fact, human olfactory bulb, which sends signals to other parts of the brain to help identify scents, is quite large and has a similar number of neurons as other mammals.

“We can detect and discriminate an extraordinary range of odors; we are more sensitive than rodents and dogs for some odors; we are capable of tracking odor trails; and our behavioral and affective states are influenced by our sense of smell,” said McGann.

“Dogs may be better than humans at discriminating the urines on a fire hydrant and humans may be better than dogs at discriminating the odors of fine wine, but few such comparisons have actual experimental support.”

Smell strongly influences human behavior, elicits emotions and shapes perceptions. McGann’s extensive research and analysis debunks the long-held misconception about the human sense of smell. The finding could have wider implications for human smell system and overall health.

"Some research suggests that losing the sense of smell may be the start of memory problems and diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's," said McGann. "One hope is that the medical world will begin to understand the importance of smell and that losing it is a big deal."

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