The Smell Test
Drew Gupta; Arka Gupta, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)
A simple odor can bring on a flood of memories, influence our moods and even impact our daily lives. Smelling vanilla may remind one of a bakery; meanwhile, smelling lilies may remind one of a funeral. Smelling licorice may prevent one from drinking water. Many underestimate the power of smell on our emotions. There is a basic anatomical link between our nose and our emotions, and West Virginians will not tolerate the water until the odor has been eliminated. Crude MCHM has a low odor threshold. In other words, small amounts of the chemical will induce a smell. The licorice- like scent of MCHM is perceived when smell receptors, also called olfactory receptors in our noses, detect the chemical stimuli. This process sends a signal to the olfaction bulb, located in the bottom of the brain, for the perception of smell. This is similar to the sensation of taste. Taste buds also respond to chemical stimuli. But the perception of taste is routed through the thalamus, along with vision, hearing and touch. Aside from the sense of smell, all other sensory functions are processed through the thalamic deep in the brain. The thalamus is also involved in the regulation of consciousness and sleep. Smell is the only sensation that bypasses the thalamus; thus, taste and smell are processed by two different parts of the brain.
When watching the local news, we often heard many declare that the water is appropriate to drink. They expect us to drink the water, even though our sense of smell orders us not to. Don't worry, you are not being uncooperative; our natural physiological functions are reacting to the licorice odor. The olfaction bulb is hesitating for us, but our thirst for water is a necessity, so our sense of taste encourages us to drink. …