People who lack olfactory bulbs shouldn’t be able to smell

People who lack olfactory bulbs shouldn’t be able to smell. But some women can

The structures are the parts of the brain known to receive sensations of smell from the nose

baking smells
Some people can smell even though they appear to lack certain structures in the brain thought to be crucial to processing olfactory information, a study finds.
FG TRADE/E+/GETTY IMAGES

By Sofie Bates

Some people may be able to smell even without key structures that relay odor information from the nose to the brain.

Researchers used brain scans to identify two women who appear to be missing their olfactory bulbs, the only parts of the brain known to receive signals about smell sensations from the nose and send them to other parts of the brain for processing. Both individuals performed similarly to other women with olfactory bulbs on several tests to identify and differentiate odors, the scientists report November 6 in Neuron. The findings challenge conventional views of the olfactory system, and may lead to treatments for people with no sense of smell (SN: 7/2/07).

“I’m not sure that our textbook view of how the [olfactory] system works is right,” says Noam Sobel, a neuroscientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.

MRI scans of the women’s brains revealed that where most people have two olfactory bulbs, these two appeared to have cerebrospinal fluid instead. To the researchers, this indicated that the women didn’t have olfactory bulbs.

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