A new study reveals for the first time that activating the brain's visual cortex with a small amount of electrical stimulation actually improves our sense of smell. The finding was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

“In particular we wanted to test the idea that activation of brain regions primarily dedicated to one sense might influence processing in other senses.

We found that electrically stimulating the visual cortex improves performance on a task that requires participants to identify the odd odour out of a group of three.”

“This study shows that on a basic level the brain structures involved in different senses are really quite interconnected in everyone.

This ‘cross-wiring' of senses is found in people with synesthesia, a condition in which people see the colour of numbers or smell words, or hear odours for example,” says Dr. Johan Lundstrom at Monell Chemical Senses Center.

TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) was directed towards the visual cortex to improve visual perception. Since TMS alters brain activity in a targeted area, it provides a powerful test of the hypothesis that visual cortex activation changes olfactory perception.

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