To the scent side

Photo by Flickr user SteffanyZphotgraphy. Click for sourceThe New York Times covers an interesting study finding that if you smell different odours in each nostril the brain doesn’t blend the scents, instead, your experience of smell alternates between the two.

This nostril rivalry, as the researchers describe it in a paper in Current Biology, is similar to what happens when the eyes are presented with different images, or the ears with different tones.

The researchers experimented with 12 people using two chemicals, one that has an odor like a marker pen, the other that smells like a rose. All 12 experienced switching between the two odors, with no pattern as to when and how often they switched.

And as with hearing and vision, smell sensitivity is related to the general tendency for left or right hemisphere activation in the brain.

Because this general tendency is also related to a bias for magical thinking and unusual perceptual experiences, we know that differences in nostril sensitivity can be found between people who have high numbers of paranormal-like experiences and those who don’t.

Link to NYT piece ‘How the Nose Copes With Nostril Rivalry’.
Link to PubMed entry for study.

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