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Brain and odor representation

Gabriel Gandolfo
MCU Université Côte d’Azur

Smell, along with taste, is one of the chemical senses, the oldest of the five so-called exteroceptive senses, which inform the nervous system about the environment: life having appeared in water, the first living organisms were therefore aquatic and needed to be informed about the molecules present in the water. This means that the emergence of the sense of smell goes back to the very beginning of the evolution of species, and even if we believe that we have lost many of its functionalities in modern man, essentially because it has been neglected in favor of the other senses, even denigrated by the scientists (from Buffon to Broca) on the grounds that it would be only a relic of our animality, taking on only a vague hedonic interest, it remains nevertheless one of our most ancestral senses, anchored in the Jungian collective unconscious. A sudden awareness of the plural roles of the sense of smell has, however, taken place as a result of the consequences of anosmia (loss of smell) caused by the recent pandemic in Covid-19: impact on nutrition, on affective and emotional life, on social interactions in particular, with pathogenic risks (ranging from malnutrition to depression). Rediscovering its importance by means of playful olfactory experiments thus becomes a very interesting project, especially if we link it to the multisensory perception of the brain, with hearing and vision among others.

> complete article in French : here