People used to believe that dogs have a better sense of smelling than any human. This trait was engorged to such extent, that the beloved pets were pictured as seeing through their nose and not their eyes. However, researchers beg to differ. Even though animals rely heavily on this sense, it doesn’t mean that the human nose is less of an expert in scents than they are.
A Poor Human Nose Is a 19th Century Myth
Neuroscientist John McGann at the Rutgers University – New Brunswick, conducted a study on the human nose. For his research, the scientist documented 1,000 official papers on the sense of smell of humans. His findings were published in journal Science. He dates the origin of the myth that human sense of smell is inferior to animals back in the year 1879 when Dr. Paul Broca explained that people’s brain didn’t accommodate the olfactory bulb too well. He interpreted this small size as an inferior sense.
Therefore, for centuries people have been under the false impression that this sense is not so exquisite. This supposition derived from the fact that even mice have more smell receptors than we do. They have 1,000 such receptors that intercept scents and help the brain label them. Humans have 600 less than rodents.
Humans Can Sniff One Trillion Different Odors
On the other hand, McGann argues that the number of receptors can’t determine the accuracy of a human nose. Moreover, the most important part is not played by receptors but by glomeruli. At this chapter, humans are way better than dogs or mice. As such, while animals are thought to sense 10,000 different scents, humans are actually capable of distinguishing one trillion odors.
On the other hand, this theory has already received some criticism. Alexandra Horowitz, a scientist at Barnard College, New York, claimed that animals are still superior to humans in this area. For instance, police have been using dogs as accurate radars for drugs for ages. At the same time, people can barely notice a bad smell on a train.
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