People with superior sense of smell are better navigators, study reveals
Follow your nose all the way home.
- It has to do with two parts of the brain, both of which are thicker in those with better smell and spacial recognition.
- Your nose can detect about 1 trillion smells.
- While your nose isn't a full GPS, it can help you pick out a general direction.
Smell is a funny thing. Some people—like actor Jason Sudekis—have no sense of smell at all. This might seem like a good thing until you realize just how important smell is to not only your sense of taste but your sense of memory, too. Turns out that a keen sense of smell is also good for something else: your sense of direction.
Screenshots of the virtual town (left), graph indicating the positions of participants between the two tests (right).
According to a study done by McGill University out of Montreal, and recently published recently in Nature, your sense of smell and your sense of direction are actually linked. It had been thought they were before (the 'olfactory spatial hypothesis' goes back to at least 1971), but no conclusive study had been done until now.
57 participants were asked to navigate a virtual town. They were given 20 minutes to familiarize themselves with it, essentially build a cognitive map, and then quizzed on how to get from one virtual landmark to another.
Scented markers: Part of any good scientific toolkit.
In another part of the test, the 57 participants were asked to smell 40 unlabeled scented markers and to guess which smell was which.
Turns out, those who had the better sense of smell were also the best navigators.
The tests, while seemingly unrelated, actually trigger overlapping brain areas. It has to do with the mOFC, or medial orbitofrontal cortex, and the hippocampus. The thicker the left side of the mOFC, the better the person is at spatial memory and the thicker the right side of the hippocampus, the better the peron's sense of smell. As the study puts it, "greater mOFC cortical thickness is associated with both fewer errors during spatial learning and better olfactory identification."
To follow up their findings, the research team also conducted a brain lesion study on a small sample of people whose spacial memory and sense of smell is impaired by frontal lobe damage that affects the mOFC brain group, comparing them against a control group.
The authors write: "... we showed for the first time that mOFC damage affects performance on both olfactory identification and spatial memory tasks. These deficits were not explained by general cognitive impairment, as patients with mOFC damage performed similarly to control participants on standard neuropsychological tests."
ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images
The study suggests this could go back to the days of our earliest ancestors, when catching a faint whiff of wild animal meant that dinner or danger was nearby.
"Our findings reveal an intrinsic relationship between olfaction and spatial memory that is supported by a shared reliance on the hippocampus and medial orbitofrontal cortex. This relationship may find its roots in the parallel evolution of the olfactory and hippocampal systems."
- People with a good sense of smell may also be better at navigation ... ›
- 10 Incredible Facts About Your Sense of Smell | Everyday Health ›
- People who have a good sense of smell are also good navigators ... ›
Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen discusses whether our society should always defend free speech rights, even for groups who would oppose such rights.
- Former ACLU president Nadine Strossen understands that protecting free speech rights isn't always a straightforward proposition.
- In this video, Strossen describes the reasoning behind why the ACLU defended the free speech rights of neo-Nazis in Skokie, Illinois, 1977.
- The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Going back to the moon will give us fresh insights about the creation of our solar system.
- July 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing — Apollo 11.
- Today, we have a strong scientific case for returning to the moon: the original rock samples that we took from the moon revolutionized our view of how Earth and the solar system formed. We could now glean even more insights with fresh, nonchemically-altered samples.
- NASA plans to send humans to a crater in the South Pole of the moon because it's safer there, and would allow for better communications with people back on Earth.
Pugs and bulldogs are incredibly trendy, but experts have massive animal welfare concerns about these genetically manipulated breeds.
- Pugs, Frenchies, boxers, shih-tzus and other flat-faced dog breeds have been trending for at least the last decade.
- Higher visibility (usually in a celebrity's handbag), an increase in city living (smaller dogs for smaller homes), and possibly even the fine acting of Frank the Pug in 1997's Men in Black may be the cause.
- These small, specialty pure breeds are seen as the pinnacle of cuteness – they have friendly personalities, endearing odd looks, and are perfect for Stranger Things video montages.
Jokesters and serious Area 51 raiders would be met with military force.
- Facebook joke event to "raid Area 51" has already gained 1,000,000 "going" attendees.
- The U.S. Air Force has issued an official warning to potential "raiders."
- If anyone actually tries to storm an American military base, the use of deadly force is authorized.