Category Archives: Biology of Smell

Wellness is Smellness 

team building activity

“To smell something implies to be present in that moment, to breathe in, to take in everything that those passing seconds have to offer. For it is fleeting and the moment exactly as it was cannot be repeated.

Meditation and the art of grounding or centering oneself focuses on the breath. Such a powerful human faculty which we are all born with it yet so few of us exercise to its full potential.”

Some 20 years ago when I happened into the fragrance industry I was taken back by the chemistry and creativity behind it, but even more so by how personal and emotional the act of smelling was.

Through the past two decades I have consulted with multinational brands on designing or enhancing their sensory experience, to be more emotional and to be more memorable.
Through the years I was struck by how powerful a sense of smell is to each and everyone of us, how it can spark individual and collective mood and memory, but indeed also how it can fulfil important personal needs such as self-expression, developing sense of self as well as sense of place and finally and perhaps most importantly a sense of well-being.
And diving deeper, cultivating our sense of smell has historically been considered dangerous, even animal-like, something emotional and difficult to control. Indeed it is human nature to fear what we do not know and a sense of smell is the most mysterious of all of our senses.
Even recent research astounds with more questions on how the nose, a wondrous human tool can work the way it works. Are we smelling by interpreting shapes, or is it vibrations, or perhaps it’s a combination?
The purpose of this article is not to dissect the research literature but rather to awaken ourselves to this powerful tool that we all possess.
However unfortunately it is a blunt and underused faculty that our modern civilisation needs less than that belonging to our primitive ancestors who literally and physically had to rely on their keen sense of smell for survival.
For the most part we just don’t get taught how to train our human ability to smell. It’s processed on the right side of our brain that non-verbal, emotional and highly intuitive side of our brain, so is it any wonder we struggle to rationalise or quantify the power of this sense?
Through the period and process of the last 5 years, myself together with our team in Singapore, have incubated 3 in-house platforms each of which offer educational workshops or entertainment experiences focused on personal & group development through an active sense of smell.

Perfumery is a powerful tool to unlock creativity and build team cohesiveness through goal-oriented projects. Because the act of smelling is so unstructured, it allows for deep sharing and inclusive thinking.

Through natural and botanical workshops, we re-teach people how to breathe and to develop their own ritual-based fragrance as a trigger for positive mood states.

 

Throughout the pandemic these experiences thrived, albeit in much smaller more intimate groups than what we have been used to in the past.
We even developed a physical-digital (‘phygital‘) workshop experience where we hosted hundreds of people simultaneously, all of us connecting remotely via our collective sense of smell and memory.
Who would’ve thought that what we were building was actually a series of wellness programmes, products and experiences that have become a delight, a source of education, entertainment as well as  catalyst for growth of oneself and as part of the greater group or team.
I am proud to say that what started off as something belonging inside the realm of brand futurism is now squarely applicable to our own wellness as individuals and as a race of human beings still learning how to be human!
We currently collaborate with companies both large and small, customising their wellness and rewards programs around our mix of products and experiences that can be delivered both in person and online.
As we awaken to a new world and a new set of priorities let’s dive deep into our own sense of smell as a powerful tool for wellbeing and for centering ourselves in an increasingly complex and confusing world.
If you are interested in implementing a truly rewarding wellness programme for your team, please contact us today!
More information is found here https://topmiddlebase.com/wellness-program/

The way you breathe can affect your memory

Are you a nose or a mouth breather?

According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2018, those of us who breathe through our noses may remember things better. After sampling a dozen different smells, researchers asked half of the study’s participants to breathe for one hour through their noses. The other half, of course, breathed through their mouths. Their results exhibited that those who breathed through their noses were able to recall the initial smells better than their mouth-breathing counterparts.

“This demonstrates, first, that nasal respiration is important during the critical period where memories are reactivated and strengthened,” write the study’s authors. “Second, it suggests that the neural mechanisms responsible may emerge from nasal respiration.”
The conclusion?
Its better to inhale through your nose as this faculty is closer linked to our brain’s memory function than our mouth
https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/4-crazy-facts-to-know-about-your-nose

Baby Superpowered Scent

Research shows that a chemical called HEX that babies give off from their heads calm men but make women more aggressive.

This could be a chemical defence system we inherited from our animal ancestors, making women more likely to defend their babies and men less likely to kill them. Odors affect behaviour in the animal world in plenty of ways. For example, a rabbit mom will attack her pups if they smell like another female rabbit.

We humans like to think we are above all that, but scientists are increasingly finding that odors affect us more than we think!!

https://www.voanews.com/a/baby-s-superpowered-scent-can-manipulate-parents-moods/6320932.html

Dog Detectors. Now Dogs Can Nail You With Covid-19

The sense of smell in dogs is unparalleled, which is even more sensitive than the most advanced man-made instrument. They possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to about six million in humans.

Once trained, medical detection dogs are able to smell metabolic changes to people’s breath and sweat. Their sense of smell can even be more accurate than conventional COVID-19 tests.

The United Arab Emirates has 38 sniffer dogs working at its airports that can identify infected persons at a 98.2% success rate. Police trained the dogs to recognize the scent of COVID-19 using samples of sweat from people with confirmed infections, collected by holding a swab in an armpit for a few minutes.

Several other countries including Finland, the United States and France have also been running their own dog training and trials of canine detection of COVID-19.

Ref: https://beta.ctvnews.ca/national/coronavirus/2021/9/16/1_5587914.html

 

A Whiff of Trouble

Research shows that hummingbirds have an active sense of smell and can smell their way out of danger while hunting for nectar. This is due to in part to their large olfactory bulbs, which is the tissue in the brain that controls smell.

For their experiments, scientists observed more than a hundred hummingbirds in the wild and in aviaries. The birds were given the choice between two feeders, either sugar water or sugar water plus one of several chemicals whose scent signaled the presence of an insect.

Results show that the hummingbirds avoided the water with the acid and that they can use their sense of smell to avoid danger while foraging for food.

Ref: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210906091001.htm

 

Unpleasant aromas can comfort us as much as pleasant ones

It is a well known fact that our sense of smell is processed in a deep-seated part of our brains, the limbic system, a place that also processes our memories and emotion.

Given the close connection of odours and memories it is therefore unsurprising that a whole range of smells from the good to the bad to the ugly (who is to judge anyway) can elicit a broad spectrum of emotions.

Smells are known to jog memories and nostalgia and it is these deep associated sensory memories that jog our emotional state.

According to psychologist Dr Elena Touroni:

‘The smell itself doesn’t have to be particularly pleasant in order to provoke a positive memory. It’s very common and we purposefully use it as a psychological strategy in therapy – especially for those who have experienced trauma or have emotional difficulties, for example,’ she adds. It’s more about the association, rather than enjoyment of the thing itself.’

What odd smells bring comfort to you?

The metro reports with some readers quoting some odd nostalgic driven aromas here 

 

Got the Spring Time Bug?

Geosmin

The start of spring holds a characteristic outdoors odor. It’s a bit of dirt, mixed in with sharp greenness and an unmistakable whiff of ozone. Its called Geosmin and our noses are so finely tuned to this organic compound, in fact, that according to Popular Mechanics we can detect it better than sharks can recognize blood.

Buuuuuut as it finally turns out, the source of this smell, its er not so romantic.

For the very first time, excited scientists at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, the John Innes Centre, and Lund University have identified why this distinct scent has persisted: a mutually-beneficial relationship between a six-legged worm, known as the springtail, and Streptomyces, a type of bacteria commonly found in soil.

Springtails are attracted to the smell of geosmin associated with the bacteria which basically then hitches a ride on Springtails that spread their tiny spores.

-Ed

Detailed source here – https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/environment/a32065673/spring-smell-geosmin-soil-springtails/

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