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Follow your nose
Date:12/14/2011

hat is more, "olfaction never sleeps", adds Antonio Rosas, "because we always breathe and perceive smells". The neuronal circuitry of olfaction coincides with that of memory and emotion (the limbic system), "which explains the enormous memory retention and vital intensity of olfaction-mediated life events."

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, who also contributed to the current publication, could recently show differences in the patterns of brain development between modern humans and Neanderthals during a critical phase for cognitive development. "In the first year of life the brains of Neanderthals and modern humans develop differently," says Philipp Gunz from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. "Modern humans have smaller faces and smaller noses than their Neanderthal cousins. However, the part of the brain that processes smells, is bigger in modern humans than in Neanderthals". "Evidence is accumulating that Neanderthals and modern humans independently evolved large brains and that their brains might have worked differently. Our new study offers a glimpse into the functional significance of these developmental differences," adds Jean-Jacques Hublin, who heads the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.

Olfactory information projects to brain regions directly responsible for processing of emotion, motivation, fear, memory, pleasure and also attraction. Neuroscientists have coined the term "higher olfactory functions" to describe those brain functions which combine cognition (memory, intuition, perception, judgment) and olfaction. The greater olfactory bulbs and relatively larger temporal lobes in H. sapiens compared to any other human species may point towards improved and different olfactory sense possibly related to the evolution of behavioural aspects and social functions.


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Contact: Sandra Jacob
jacob@eva.mpg.de
49-341-355-0122
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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