A recent study carried out by RUB ( Ruhr-Universität Bochum ) revealed how the Emotions of others influence our Olfactory sense, it shows how the facial expression of others influences how positively or negatively we perceive an odour. It would appear that the face and body language of those around us when smelling a scent will effect how we perceive it.
The study examined how the processing of Visual information effected the olfactory system in humans. Visual stimuli received by the piriform cortex a region of the brain mainly known as part of the primary olfactory cortex, produced predictive templates that helped or facilitate olfactory processing. In other words the region of the brain responsible for detecting odours has kindly provided us with a map or an olfactory coordinates reference.
The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study if this region of the olfactory system, is also capable of preprocessing emotional visual information. Differing odours were used in conjunction with primed images of facial expressions, for example happy, sad, disgusted along side scents that were neutral, unpleasant or pleasant.
Their findings are the first to demonstrate that the piriform cortex preprocesses emotional visual information prior to any olfactory stimulation, and that the emotional connotation of this preprocessing is subsequently transferred and integrated into an Extended Olfactory Network for olfactory processing.
In a nut shell their findings show that when we see someone else make a face because of a bad smell, then we are highly lightly to react in the same way. Our inherited olfactory DNA has taught us that if one of our troop reacts or dislikes an odour, then it may be dangerous or harmful for us, so being forewarned we are forearmed. It could be that the development of the interaction between our olfactory and visual information contributes to an effective perception of scents, that ultimately enhances our chance of survival.
Odour identification or recognition is greatly improved by additional verbal and or visual information, for example showing someone a picture of an orange or a lemon when an orange or lemon scent is presented. Seeing an image or reading a scent description also activates the primary olfactory cortex, without the subject ever coming into physical contact with an object.
In summation, the research scientists discovered as expected that the analysis of the whole brain revealed a consistent and specific activation pattern throughout the extended olfactory network. What was also very interesting was the discovery that the observable emotions expressed on the faces of others change the processing of pleasant odours, while unpleasant odours were unaffected.
The results of this study clearly demonstrate that emotional visual information is preprocessed in the human piriform cortex prior to any physical contact or pairing with an odour.
This is of specific interest as visual stimuli have not been directly associated with any olfactory stimuli. The behavioural data reveals that valence (relating to or denoting electrons involved in or available for chemical bond formation) perception of odours is shifted towards the emotional connotation of the facial expression.
The findings from this research throw further light on just how complex and utterly amazing our Olfactory sense is, and how important it is to our well-being. It is also proof of how we as individuals influence others and the world around us.
If you want to see for yourself first hand if this works, then the next time your sampling or shopping for Perfume try smiling or frowning at the people closest to you and see what happens.
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