Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

When The Nose Doesn't Know: Cornell Scientists Develop Standard Spectrum Of Smell To Separate "Ahhh" From "Ugghh"

Date:
April 3, 2000
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Distinguishing the difference between the aroma of pepperoni pizza and boiling cabbage is not as simple as it seems for everyone. Some people have a heightened sense of smell and can be overwhelmed by aromas. And some suffer from smell blindness, a condition appropriately called "anosmia," that could make the cabbage smell like a four-star restaurant.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Distinguishing the difference between the aroma of pepperoni pizza and boiling cabbage is not as simple as it seems for everyone. Some people have a heightened sense of smell and can be overwhelmed by aromas. And some suffer from smell blindness, a condition appropriately called "anosmia," that could make the cabbage smell like a four-star restaurant.

Related Articles


But, who is who? In the commercial world, how do you distinguish between those with perfect sniff pitch and those with none? Cornell University food chemists are finding out by standardizing the spectrum of smell.

Jane Friedrich, Cornell doctoral candidate in food chemistry, is developing sniff standards in the laboratory of Terry Acree, a Cornell professor of food science, at the university's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y. "Let's say you smell an essence oil like jasmine, which is a pure smell. Your ability to smell that jasmine is based on a small combination of olfactory receptor proteins. Those proteins produce a pattern your brain would recognize," she says. But even for finite aromas like jasmine, people smell it in different ways.

Friedrich presented her research into smells, "Selecting Standards for Gas Chromatography Olfactometry," at the American Chemical Society national meeting today (March 26) at the Moscone Center, San Francisco.

One reason for the large variation associated with olfactory acuity is due to a phenomenon called "specific anosmia," said Friedrich. Simply, this is smell blindness, or insensitivity to the odor of a chemical or group of chemicals in people with otherwise normal olfactory sensitivity. Specific anosmia poses a challenge to researchers because it can distort data in sensory research labs.

Friedrich noted a classic example of this sensory-test problem from a study performed at the Western Regional Research Laboratory in Albany, Calif., more than 30 years ago. Test subjects sniffed isobutyric acid, which smells like dirty socks or an unclean goat to most people. But there were two testers who sensed the isobutryic acid had a "very pleasant fruity odor - like apples." Experiments later revealed that the wayward individuals had a specific anosmia to isobutyric acid, and the fruity smell they detected were the byproducts and impurities usually found in commercial samples of the acid.

"If a company wants to make pine cleaner for bathrooms and inadvertently uses a person on the smell panel with an anosmic sense of smell, that person may barely perceive the alpha pinen (the active chemical responsible for the smell). This means that the rest of the consumers will think it smells too piney," said Friedrich. "That's a problem."

Using a selective and sensitive bioassay for smells based on gas chromatography olfactometry, called CharmAnalysis TM, Friedrich and Acree have investigated the compounds responsible for specific anosmia. The researchers now are attempting to correlate sensitivity to the chemicals to the olfactory receptor genetics. In short, people can now be tested and categorized for their valuable acumen by sniffing a broad, standard aroma set - in a few whiffs. The set will allow laboratories easily to screen out individuals with specific anosmia.

Friedrich used standard tests to sort out her original testing subjects. She screened 10 people, with each testing period taking about 3 weeks, or 30 weeks of testing in total. Friedrich and Acree believe that they can now accurately place people in three categories: hyperosmic (very sensitive), hyposmic (the baseline category) and anosmic. "This will help other researchers conduct analyses," said Friedrich. "Our goal eventually is to get the testing down to three sniffs."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "When The Nose Doesn't Know: Cornell Scientists Develop Standard Spectrum Of Smell To Separate "Ahhh" From "Ugghh"." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 April 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000331094350.htm>.
Cornell University. (2000, April 3). When The Nose Doesn't Know: Cornell Scientists Develop Standard Spectrum Of Smell To Separate "Ahhh" From "Ugghh". ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000331094350.htm
Cornell University. "When The Nose Doesn't Know: Cornell Scientists Develop Standard Spectrum Of Smell To Separate "Ahhh" From "Ugghh"." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000331094350.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

Newsy (Oct. 30, 2014) A frog noticed by a conservationist on New York's Staten Island has been confirmed as a new species after extensive study and genetic testing. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Surfer Accidentally Stands on Shark, Gets Bitten

Surfer Accidentally Stands on Shark, Gets Bitten

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) A 20-year-old competition surfer said on Thursday he accidentally stepped on a shark's head before it bit him off the Australian east coast. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Inflicts Heavy Toll on Guinean Potato Trade

Ebola Inflicts Heavy Toll on Guinean Potato Trade

AFP (Oct. 30, 2014) The Ebola epidemic has seen Senegal and Guinea Bissau close its borders with Guinea and the economic consequences have started to be felt, especially in Fouta Djallon, where the renowned potato industry has been hit hard. Duration: 02:01 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Genetically Altered Glowing Flower on Display in Tokyo

Genetically Altered Glowing Flower on Display in Tokyo

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 30, 2014) Just in time for Halloween, a glowing flower goes on display in Tokyo. Instead of sorcery and magic, its creators used science to genetically modify the flower, adding a naturally fluorescent plankton protein to its genetic mix. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins