Have you ever walked into a room and smelled fresh cookies baking? Then, ten minutes later, you don’t smell them anymore? The smell is still there, but your nose has adapted to the smell. This is called olfactory fatigue. It is based on how your nose works.
There are many parts of your nose. The two holes in your nose are called nostrils. Nostrils let air come into your nose allowing you to breathe. The nostrils take turns having air go in each one. For about three hours, people breath through one nostril. Then, three hours later, people breath through the other one. The hairs inside your nose, called cilias, help block out dirt and dust, and let smell go into the nose. The space after your nostril is called the nasal cavity. Air enters your nose and then travels into the nasal cavity. At the top of the nasal cavity, the air hits a group of cells called olfactory nerves. There are 10 million olfactory nerves in an area that is the size of a thumbnail. These cells send messages to your brain about the smell that just came into your nose. People can smell because almost everything has smell molecules. Smell molecules break off from things around a person.The average human can smell about 4,000 different scents. People with a great sense of smell can smell up to 10,000 different scents. After you have smelled the air, it goes down your throat and into the body(Furgang 7).
In the book, Follow Your Nose, the author describes an experiment in which olfactory nerves get tired. In the experiment, the test subject was told to smell a cinnamon-vanilla mixture until the test subject couldn’t smell it anymore. Then, the test subject smelled a cinnamon-water mixture until the test subject couldn’t smell it anymore. Third, the test subject was told to smell the cinnamon-vanilla mixture again until the subject couldn’t smell it anymore. The second time the test subject smelled the cinnamon-vanilla mixture it smelled more like vanilla than cinnamon. The first time the test subject smelled the cinnamon-vanilla mixture, the smell tired both nerves. When the test subject smelled the cinnamon-water mixture, only the nerves that responded to the cinnamon were tired. When the test subject smelled the cinnamon-vanilla one again, the nerves that responded to vanilla had recovered and the cinnamon ones were still recovering. That is why the test subject smelled vanilla more than cinnamon (Cobb 10)
Olfactory Fatigue is very common. It happens when you are in a room with a strong smell for a while. The sense of smell recovers when a person goes to a different place and smells a different smell. According to the book Follow Your Nose, the author explains Olfactory Fatigue happens when “nerves get tired” (Cobb 9).
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