Even if you think you have a poor sense of smell, you’d be surprised at just how many unique scents your schnoz can pick up: About 1 trillion.
Researchers previously thought that humans could only sniff out about 10,000 odors, but a new study has turned that on its head.
“My hope is that this helps to dispel the myth that humans have a bad sense of smell,” said study co-author Andreas Keller with Rockefeller University, according to Nature.
Researchers evaluated the capacity of human smell by testing what they could sense from odor mixtures that had various scent components. Finding that the 26 study participants could distinguish at least 1 trillion different olfactory stimuli, the study says humans have hundreds of olfactory receptors — in the range of the 400s. This discovery shows the nose “far outperforms the other senses in the number of physically different stimuli it can discriminate.”
Neuroscientist Noam Sobel of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel told Nature the relationship between how much the human nose can smell and the number of scent receptors is still unclear.
Donald Wilson, an olfactory researcher at the New York University School of Medicine, called he study’s findings “thrilling,” according to Nature.
The study was published in the journal Science.
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