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 New malaria analysis method reveals disease severity in minutes
14.08.2017 | University of British Columbia

nachricht New type of blood cells work as indicators of autoimmunity
14.08.2017 | Instituto de Medicina Molecular

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: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>