What the nose knows

Emma Young in Mosaic:

ScreenHunter_1298 Aug. 09 10.56We don’t think of ourselves as being particularly good smellers, especially compared with other animals. But research shows that smells can have a powerful subconscious influence on human thoughts and behaviour. People who can no longer smell – following an accident or illness – report a strong sense of loss, with impacts on their lives they could never have imagined. Perhaps we don’t rank smell very highly among our senses because it’s hard to appreciate what it does for us – until it’s gone.

Nick, who’s 34, can pinpoint the moment he lost his sense of smell. It was 9 January 2014. He was playing ice hockey with friends on the frozen pond at his parents’ place in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. “I’ve done it millions of times,” he says. “I was skating backwards, slowly, and I hit a rut on the ice. My feet went out from under me. I hit the back right side of my head. I was out.

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