Aroma researcher highlights stimulating power of smell in humans

We might be forgiven for thinking that a dog's sense of smell is more sensitive than our own. After all, our other senses seem to dominate daily life. But, the human nose is a powerful analytical tool which can, at times, drastically impact human interactions, and can be used for targeted artefact detection in modern materials and processes, explains Andrea Buettner, editor of the recently published Springer Handbook of Odor, a compendium of smell research including the chemistry and origin of what smells, the physiology and psychology of odor perception, and the application of scents and their measurement, but also the avoidance of odor nuisances.

"The relaxing or stimulating powers of smell fascinated me early on," says Buettner, who grew up loving the smell of cut wood from her father's carpentry workshop. Her research as a food chemist and aroma researcher now additionally focuses on the smells of the modern world, more precisely, the investigation of new substances and their physiological and toxicological effects, as well as the psychosomatic effects of offensive or irritating smell exposure.

The field of odor science is vast and Buettner explains that the most exciting research arises at the interfaces between disciplines. For example, between architecture and physiology where researchers show how sensual perception can be used as an architectural design method so that a successful building design has to consider the context of the building and the whole human body. Or between medicine and chemistry, where research into how analyzing the chemical molecules in our exhaled breath can help us diagnose certain diseases.

Potential research topics in odor science are "practically endless," explains Buettner, who highlights the applications such research can have in our daily life.

"People should be more aware of their sense of smell, start training this sense early on in their youth, not only because it is good to know the different smells better but also because it adds another dimension to the quality of life!"


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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