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Olfactory receptors produce electric signals when stimulated by odors.
smelling, nose, perception, sensory organ, olfactory organ, smell, scent, nasal epithelium, olfactory pathway, olfactory bulb, nasal cavity, olfactory nerve, receptor, nasal bone, frontal sinus, cribriform plate, stimulus, impulse conduction, signal, cerebral cortex, central nervous system, nervous system, human, biology
Many of the particles found in the air can stimulate olfactory receptors in the nose, establishing a sense of smell in the cerebral cortex. Smelling plays an important role in choosing food that is safe to eat, or recognizing the characteristic smell of another animal – and therefore in social relationships. Humans and other primates have a relatively weak sense of smell compared to that of other mammals, but even humans can distinguish thousands of smells.
The protruding part of the nose is supported by the nasal bone and the cartilage attached to it. The nasal cavity is separated from the mouth cavity by the palate and connected to the middle ear by the Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube equalizes pressure between the middle ear and the atmosphere. The nasal cavity is bordered on top by the cribriform plate, a thin, perforated part of the ethmoid bone where the olfactory nerve (or cranial nerve I) crosses the nasal epithelium and reaches the olfactory bulb.
The 4-5 cm (1.6-2 in) large nasal epithelium is located on the topmost part of the nasal cavity. Impulses produced by odors that stimulate the epithelial receptors are transmitted to the olfactory bulb by the olfactory nerve (or cranial nerve I). The fibers of the olfactory tract transmit the impulses to several parts of the brain. The sense of smell is produced in the cerebral cortex. The olfactory system is also connected to the limbic system, which plays an important role in forming emotions and memory traces. This is why odors often stimulate strong emotions and can also trigger memories. In his novel ‘In Search of Lost Time’, Marcel Proust describes how the smell and taste of a cup of tea reminds him of a series of events in his childhood. This type of involuntary memory is often called Proustian memory: when something that we have learned with a certain smell present is easier to recall when the same smell is present.
Odor stimuli are received by receptors of the nasal epithelium. Different receptors are sensitive to different odors. Their impulses are transmitted to the mitral cells of the olfactory bulb, where they are switched and transmitted to the cerebral cortex by the fibers of the olfactory tract.
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