With training performance of olfactory system can be improved, as per the findings of a team which includes a researcher from Thrissur

The findings of a team of researchers at the University of Geneva, which includes a neuroscientist who hails from Thrissur, are shedding new light on olfactory perception abilities of human beings.

A team of international neuroscientists, comprising Nixon M. Abraham (India), Roberto Vincis (Italy), Samuel Lagier (France) and Ivan Rodrigues (Switzerland), working at Prof. Alan Carleton’s Lab, Department of Basic Neuroscience, University of Geneva, has found that long-lasting plasticity occurred at the sensory periphery because of olfactory learning.

The olfactory perception abilities of common perfumers or winemakers are, thus, not a special gift, but a result of sensory drive.

On March 18, the findings were published in the reputed online journal e-Life (http://elife.elifesciences.org/content/3/e02109), edited by Randy Schekman, a Nobel Prize-winning U.S. cell biologist.

“Mammalian brain retains a significant degree of plasticity throughout life. The ability of brain remodelling allows adults to learn new things and adapt to new environment. The plasticity helps brain to recover lost functions after brain injuries,” said Dr. Abraham.

To facilitate new learning, information from the environment must be detected and encoded by sensory systems.

“Fragrant molecules, for example, activate specific receptors in the nose, which in turn, sends information to the anatomical structures — glomeruli — in a region of the brain called the olfactory bulb,” he said.

To determine how learning alters the representation of odours, the scientists used two groups of adult mice: one, trained to distinguish odours of banana, kiwi or clove, while the second was exposed to odours passively. When these two groups were tested with the same odours, the learned group of mice showed more activated glomeruli.

“In human beings, who have a very similar sensory system, this would mean that training may improve the performance of the olfactory system. Our noses are indeed powerful,” he added.

Keywords: neurosciencee-Life