Monday, October 04, 2004

Proust would be proud

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2004 has been awarded jointly to Richard Axel and Linda B. Buck for their discoveries of "odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system."

Axel and Buck discovered a large gene family of "odorant receptors" helping to understand how humans "can consciously experience the smell of a lilac flower in the spring and recall this olfactory memory at other times."

A good wine or a sunripe wild strawberry activates a whole array of odorant receptors, helping us to perceive the different odorant molecules.

A unique odour can trigger distinct memories from our childhood or from emotional moments — positive or negative — later in life.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

You know, a younger me would have laughed at this getting the Nobel, but six months ago I lost my sense of smell almost completely and I've come to realize just how important it is. I really took for granted its telling me when the boy needed a diaper change, when dinner was almost ready, when something was mouldy... and don't even get me started on what it's like to barely taste your food.

--rachel

Isabella said...

What's with that? How'd you lose the smell capacity? Or is that too personal? Or do I have to search your blog archives to unearth the story? And why can't I find your email address?

Meanwhile, the Ig Nobel Awards are out there for our amusement, and personally, I think some of the science there ought to be taken more seriously, like investigating the scientific validity of the Five-Second Rule, though I'm a little disappointed they don't factor in pet-ownership to someone's willingness to abide by the rule.

Anonymous said...

I have mentioned my anosmia (yes, there's a word for it) in passing on the blog, but that's all. This is partly because I was in denial about it for a long time (I can still taste my food! It'll clear up!) and partly because I still haven't gotten my lazy ass to a doctor, so I don't know the real cause yet. I had a bad cold last April and lost my sense of smell, as one does with a cold, and it just never came back. I am going to a doctor at the end of this month, and I expect I'll have something to say about it on the blog then...

My e-mail address: amyunbounded at yahoo dot com.

--rachel