Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Not Senseless – Watching the Brain Relearning the Sense of Smell

29.06.2011
Neural and biochemical processes that are affected by the loss of olfactory sensory perception are now being explored.

These studies provide insight into the effects of the loss of smell on corresponding relevant brain areas. One such project, conducted with support from the Austrian Science Fund FWF, is studying the reasons behind this illness that, surprisingly, affects many people. In particular, the processes in individuals who learn to smell again after having lost this ability are being examined.

Even though we sometimes wish it were less, we collect 20% of our information on our environment with our sense of smell. Our olfactory functions are not only very highly developed, they also have important social functions – something which individuals who no longer have a sense of smell strongly experience. This neural disease, known as anosmia, often leads to poor nutrition, depression and seclusion. Although up to 5% of the population suffers from total loss of olfactory functions – and 15% suffer from reduced olfactory function – little is known about the impact of this loss on higher neural processes. This is now being studied at the Medical University of Vienna in a newly launched project from the Austrian Science Fund FWF. The study makes use of a phenomenon that has only recently been discovered: through special training, some anosmics recover their sense of smell.

Olfactory Fitness Program
With regard to this specialized research approach, project manager Dr. Veronika Schoepf, Department of Neuroradiology and Musculoskeletal Radiology at the University Clinic of Radiology comments that, "in recent years it has become known that patients can regain a certain amount of odour perception through special training methods. Just as little is known as yet on how the training works, the same holds true for the neural processing of chemosensory information in those affected. Regaining the sense of smell offers us the opportunity to learn more about the impact of anosmia on neural processes."

One method that Dr. Schoepf uses for her work is fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). This type of magnetic resonance imaging enables visualize physiological processes in the human body. Due to its non-invasive operating principle, fMRI can be used for studies in particularly sensitive areas, such as the brain.

One part of the project is now focussed on investigating whether the special olfactory training also affects the activity of individual brain regions, such as the olfactory cortex. A comparison of the activities before and after such training provides additional information and clarifies whether other brain structures are activated to compensate for the loss of smell.

A further compensatory mechanism may occur in the trigeminal nerve – an important nerve for olfactory perception. To clarify this hypothesis, the team led by Dr. Schoepf will compare chemosensory stimuli along the nerves of healthy subjects and those affected by using fMRI. At the same time, energy consumption and the relative concentrations of neurotransmitters are also measured.

Sniffing for Science
Dr. Schoepf is also studying a very specific process of smelling in more detail, namely sniffing. According to Dr. Schoepf: "Today we know that sniffing is more than just an intense form of suction of air into the nasal cavity. Sniffing actually increases neural activity in the olfactory cortex. This even occurs when no odorant is absorbed. What we now want to know is whether this type of neural activation is also possible in the brains of individuals with anosmia."

The results of this interdisciplinary project by medical doctors, physicists and odour researchers will provide an important basis for understanding anosmia – and can simultaneously contribute to the development of possible new treatments. In addition, this project, supported by the FWF, offers basic insight into the neural processes of one of our most important senses.

Scientific contact
DI Dr. Veronika Schöpf
Medizinische Universität Wien
Universitätsklinik für Radiodiagnostik
Währinger Guertel 18-22
1090 Wien
T +43 / 1 / 40400 - 5751
E veronika.schoepf@meduniwien.ac.at
Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
Mag. Stefan Bernhardt
Haus der Forschung
Sensengasse 1
1090 Vienna, Austria
T +43 / 1 / 505 67 40 - 8111
Editorial & Broadcasting Office
PR&D - Public Relations for Research & Education
Mariannengasse 8
1090 Vienna
T +43 / 1 / 505 70 44
E contact@prd.at
W http://www.prd.at

Stefan Bernhardt | PR&D
Further information:
http://www.fwf.ac.at

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Cystic fibrosis alters the structure of mucus in airways
28.06.2017 | University of Iowa Health Care

nachricht Mice provide insight into genetics of autism spectrum disorders
28.06.2017 | University of California - Davis

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersensitive through quantum entanglement

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Mice provide insight into genetics of autism spectrum disorders

28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>