Sniffing Makes You Smell Better

Really. Researchers have finally found out why sniffing the air makes you detect odors better.

And its not just that your increase the volume of air through your nose. It turns out that there are two different kind of detectors in the nose. One, the olfactory nerves, as you would expect react to the chemicals in the air, the ones that characterize the smell - almonds, roses, wet dogs, whatever. When these neurons respond to odor molecules, they transmit chemical energy into electrical signals signaling that it's smelling something.

But, here's the key finding. When odor free air was puffed through the nose, the same electrical signals to the brain were generated, apparently reinforcing the message to the brain "I smell something!"

"This mechanical sensitivity increases the overall sensitivity of our nose, especially when stimulated by weak odors," said a researcher. "It helps the brain make better sense out of odor responses when it integrates the airflow information. We still don't know how it happens, but sniffing is essential for odor perception."

Well, maybe not an earth-shaking finding, but nothing to sniff at.



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