It’s Sunday night, you’re at home and your stomach rumbles, you open the fridge and suddenly… It smells bad. No doubt, it’s the cheese you forgot for 1 week.
The smell persists, the room smells, but why is this smell so recognizable?
Processing of olfactory information
An odor occurs when a chemical molecule comes near the nose. On cheese, thanks to fermentation, methanethiol is released. It is an odorous molecule.
In the nasal cavity, thanks to olfactory receptors, these odorous molecules are transmitted to the olfactory bulb, the memory of odors, and then to the brain.
If the smell of cheese is so recognizable, it is because its odor molecule is very volatile. It passes easily into a gaseous state and floats in the air.
1,000 billion different scents
The smell of cheese does not make everyone agree. If some like it, others are immediately disgusted. Indeed, the sense of smell is linked to the amygdala, which decode emotions, and to the hippocampus, the organ of memory.
Thus, the brain makes the association between a smell and an emotion. This is how it retains the characteristic scent of Camembert.
According to a recent study, the brain would be able to distinguish at least 1000 billion different smells.
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