Our sense receptors are one of the blessings given to us. It is commonly referred to as touch, smell, sight, hearing and taste. All our senses are connected with sensory receptors called neurons. The sensory receptor reacts to a physical stimulus that can be internal or external. Let us look at two simple examples. If we touch a hot pot we immediately pull our hand back. What took place in those few seconds is that the sensory receptor of the skin felt the heat through the sensory nerve ending. A similar reaction takes place while a screeching sound hits the eardrum. We close our ears. These are called reactions. Reactions can be pleasant as well. We feel amazing when we smell something we like to eat or wear. We will not be able to relish our food if we are unable to get the aroma.

Without the boon of functioning sensory receptors, both sensation and perception cannot occur. Each of the senses receptors mentioned, touch, smell, sight, hear and taste have their own perceiving neurons. The sensory receptor that governs the neuron functioning of smell is called olfactory. The olfactory sensory neurons are found inside the inner tissue of the nose bone. Every nerve ending has an axon that finds it merges with glomeruli in the olfactory bulb. Glomeruli are merely clusters of many nerve endings (axons) of the neurons that connect with the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb is the place where all the memories or smells are felt and stored. A human brain can never forget a smell. They can associate with a smell even after years have passed.


When we smell a scent, the smell directly gets carried to the olfactory bulb through the hypothalamus triggering emotional processing. The emotional processing can be perception, reaction, feeling, etc.  Every individual prefers different perfumes because the sense of smell is driven by how a human feel and think. The sense of smell is extremely powerful. It acts as a protector during adverse situations like gas leaks, fire, burning of food, etc. The olfactory bulb immediately sends a signal to the neurotransmitter of olfactory sensory receptors. Neurotransmitters’ role is merely to transfer the message from one neuron to another. To simplify, we humans are able to perceive rather detect smell through the olfactory receptor neurons which are special nerve cells in the olfactory bulb.

Our brain has a limbic system that has two parts. The two parts of the limbic system can be called ‘feeling brain’ and ‘thinking brain’. The olfactory receives signals from the feeling brain. When one wears perfume, they feel good, stress-free, happy, peppy, comfortable, and positive. The whole mood gets changed instantly. This change takes place through a process wherein the smell goes through the nasal channel and meets with the olfactory sensory receptors. These receptors through transmitters carry happy emotions to the feeling brain that affects the emotions at the outer level. The meld of sprayed perfume on oneself or in the atmosphere colours the ambience with a spectrum of happiness.

Did You Know ?

  • We have over 1000 smell receptors
  • We have 100 billion nerves in our brain.
  • A sense of smell is linked to a sense of taste.
  • Our olfactory bulb has memories of all kinds of smells.
  • One drop of perfume can fragrant a six-room apartment
  • Dogs have 100 million times more sense receptors that humans

Isn’t it amazing that something we consider as natural and organic is scientific in nature as well?  Do let me know some interesting facts that you know about the perception of a smell.

By : Zahra Shakir. Zahra is a professional social worker and educator who love sewing her thoughts of the inner world through written words. She is currently associated with Mistpoffer as an intern.


  1. Matthew Pearson; https://slideplayer.com/slide/13579466/
  2. https://curiosity.com/topics/heres-why-smells-trigger-such-vivid-memories-curiosity/
  3. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/early/2015/07/06/022103.full.pdf
  4. http://azkurs.org/sensory-science-101-part-i-taste-and-smell-speaker-name.html

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