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[SD] Human Brain 'Smells' What It Expects Rather Than What It Sniffs

post #1 of 34
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In the moments before you "stop and smell the roses," it's likely your brain is already preparing your sensory system for that familiar floral smell. New research from Northwestern Medicine offers strong evidence that the brain uses predictive coding to generate "predictive templates" of specific smells -- setting up a mental expectation of a scent before it hits your nostrils.

Predictive coding is important because it provides animals -- in this case, humans -- with a behavioral advantage, in that they can react more quickly and more accurately to stimuli in the surrounding environment.

The study, published in the Oct. 6 issue of the journal Neuron, was led by Christina Zelano, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Jay Gottfried, M.D., associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and attending physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

The researchers used functional MRI techniques and cutting-edge, pattern-based analysis to identify the existence of predictive coding in the olfactory cortex of the brain, where the sense of smell is housed.

While it may not be obvious that predictive templates in the olfactory system give modern-day humans a behavioral advantage, Zelano said people often overlook the power of the sense of smell.

"If somebody hands you a bottle of milk and asks, 'Is this milk rotten?' there may not be any visual clues to help you accurately determine if the milk has spoiled, so you rely on your sense of smell," Zelano said. "Our study indicated that if your brain can successfully form a template of a rotten milk smell, then you would more accurately determine whether that milk is rotten and therefore you are less likely to get sick. These predictive templates can give us an important advantage."
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Edited by Riou - 10/11/11 at 6:10am
post #2 of 34
Wow! Thats awesome!
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post #3 of 34
Isn't that how our brain works with everything? For example say if I said I was going to show you something red. You automatically rule out all objects in your brain that could not possibly be red before you even see it.
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post #4 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by matty0610 View Post
Isn't that how our brain works with everything? For example say if I said I was going to show you something red. You automatically rule out all objects in your brain that could not possibly be red before you even see it.
But that would be done by ourselves, this is something we can't control
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post #5 of 34
so silent farts smell different then audible ones! its scientific!
post #6 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Setzer View Post
But that would be done by ourselves, this is something we can't control
Quote:
"stop and smell the roses," it's likely your brain is already preparing your sensory system for that familiar floral smell. New research from Northwestern Medicine offers strong evidence that the brain uses predictive coding to generate "predictive templates" of specific smells -- setting up a mental expectation of a scent before it hits your nostrils.
Here you know for a fact you are about to smell roses. So mentally you rule out all things that don't have the potential to smell like roses. Like garbage. Unless your garbage smells like roses, then you can be the next martha stewart.
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post #7 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by matty0610 View Post
Here you know for a fact you are about to smell roses. So mentally you rule out all things that don't have the potential to smell like roses. Like garbage. Unless your garbage smells like roses, then you can be the next martha stewart.
Well, it's also very interesting because now we know that not everyone really smells the same "thing".

You and I could perceive roses to smell differently.

Imagine a cologne like Tommy Hilfiger, I could predict/expect it to smell less intensely than you do so, I wouldn't experience the same "joy" you do when you smell it.

That's cool.
post #8 of 34
I have always thought the same for food and taste.

At my work, I make burgers. Yeah sad job, I know. But I have always thought, if you make the burger look pretty, it will taste nicer to the customer then if it looks sloppy, even if its the exact same burger.

Especially with Pizza, although I dont make pizza - if the pizza looks amazing, but tastes the exact same as a old gross looking pizza, the nice looking pizza will taste better. I have thought in our head, we prepare ourselfs with something to expect.
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post #9 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by matty0610 View Post
Isn't that how our brain works with everything?
This ^

I know i've read about this from different sources, all of our feelings are in fact subject to the brains interpretation and expectations.

To put it mildly: the eyes see, the brain decides what.
post #10 of 34
I'm not sure this works. Many a time I expect to smell something and didn't find that smell... But meh, maybe I'm doing it wrong?
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