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Understanding The Role Of Olfaction In Taste

order to conduct the experiment scientists inserted small tubes into the noses of volunteers such: one tube ended at the nostrils and the other ended further back in the nasal passage near the throat, where odours from the mouth would originate.As they introduced odours into one tube or the other, they scanned the subject's brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging, a technique in which magnetic fields and radio waves detect increased blood flow to brain areas, which reflects increased activity. They used four odorants: chocolate for the food odour, and lavender for the non-food. They also chose two odorant chemicals - butanol and farnesol - to test a theory that the olfactory system distinguishes molecules according to whether they are more water soluble (butanol) or oily (farnesol).

Their results showed that the chocolate smell activated different brain regions according to the route of administration, supporting the duality of olfaction. The lavender odour did appear to activate different regions, but to a far lesser extent and the effect of route of delivery was greatest for the chocolate odour. The two different chemicals butanol and farnesol did not elicit significantly different brain responses according to the route of delivery, indicating that the properties of the molecules do not play a role in the response.

But researchers warn that the limited study, on just one food, means future experiments are needed to determine whether other food odours produce the same differential brain activations.
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