Is the smell of almonds closer to that of roses or bananas? Weizmann Institute scientists have now answered that question (roses) by showing for the first time that smells can be mapped and the relative distance between various odors determined. Their findings, which appeared recently in Nature Methods, may help scientists to unravel the basic laws underlying our sense of smell, as well as potentially enabling odors to be digitized and transferred via computer in the future.
We know the musical note do is farther from la than from re on a scale - not only because our ears tell us the distance is greater, but because their frequencies are farther apart. No such physical relationship had been discovered for smells, in part because odor molecules are much more difficult to pin down than sound frequencies.
To create their map, the scientists began with 250 odorants and generated, for each, a list of around 1,600 chemical characteristics. From this dataset, the researchers, led by Rafi Haddad, a graduate student with Prof. Noam Sobel in the Neurobiology Department, and Prof. David Harel of the Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Department, together with their colleague Rehan Khan, created a multidimensional map of smells that revealed the distance between one odor molecule and another.
Eventually, they pared the list of traits needed to situate an odor on the map down to around 40. They then checked to see whether the brain recognizes this map, similar to the way it recognizes musical scales. They reexamined numerous previously published studies that measured the neural response patterns to smells in a variety of lab animals - from fruit flies to rats - and found that across all the species, the closer any two smells were on the map, the more similar the neural patterns. The scientists also tested 70 new odors by predicting the neural patterns they would arouse and running comparisons with the unpublished results of olfaction experiments done at the University of Tokyo. They found that their predictions closely matched the experimental results.
These findings lend support to the scientist's theory that, contrary to the commonly held view that smell is a subjective experience, there are universal laws governing the organization of smells, and these laws determine how our brains perceive them.
Prof. Noam Sobel's research is supported by the Nella and Leon Benoziyo Center for Neurosciences; the J&R Foundation; and the Eisenberg Keefer Fund for New Scientists.
Prof. David Harel's research is supported by the Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science; and the Henri Gutwirth Fund for Research. Prof. Harel is the incumbent of the William Sussman Professorial Chair.
The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world's top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions. Noted for its wide-ranging exploration of the natural and exact sciences, the Institute is home to 2,600 scientists, students, technicians and supporting staff. Institute research efforts include the search for new ways of fighting disease and hunger, examining leading questions in mathematics and computer science, probing the physics of matter and the universe, creating novel materials and developing new strategies for protecting the environment.
Batya Greenman | idw
Navigational view of the brain thanks to powerful X-rays
18.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology
Separating methane and CO2 will become more efficient
18.10.2017 | KU Leuven
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy