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Understanding The Role Of Olfaction In Taste

Ramifications for food formulation as fundamental research on food smells finds olfaction is uniquely a "dual" sense, in that the brain perceives the same smell molecule differently if it arrives through the nose, rather than the mouth. //

Based on a recent study researchers at Yale University report that the smell of chocolate could activate different brain regions according to whether the odour was sniffed or tasted. In a joint research effort led by Dana M Small at Yale University and Thomas Hummel of the University of Dresden Medical School, the researchers launched their exploration into the brain's possible dual response to odours.

They were driven by the phenomenon that sensing an odour "orthonasally" through the nose triggers the perception that it is coming from the outside world, while sensing it through the mouth - or "retronasally" - causes the perception that it arises from the mouth. Its similar to saying that we like the 'taste' of a wine, because of its fruity or spicy notes. However, gustation refers only to the sensations of sweet, sour, salty, savoury, and bitter, and thus the pleasant 'taste' to which we refer is actually a pleasant odour sensed retronasally, say researchers.

Researchers say that pinching the nose while eating or drinking which blocks airflow from the mouth through the olfactory system - stops flavour perception and releasing the nose restores the sense of flavour in the mouth.

Examining the neural cause of olfaction's duality, researchers say they devised the first experiment to directly compare the same odorants introduced through the nose and the mouth. They claim that while several studies have examined only brain responses to retronasal olfactory stimulation, none have directly compared orthonasal and retronasal stimulation in the same subjects, or considered the possibility that the effects of route of stimulation depend on the way that odours are typically sensed.

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