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We live in a sea of volatile molecules whose presence we are aware of largely or exclusively through our sense of smell. Smells warn us of environmental dangers (fire, toxic chemicals); they create a sense of intimacy with loved ones, whose signature odors we learn to recognize; they provide pleasure through perfumes and other desirable fragrances; and they constitute a substantial proportion of the flavors of food, as volatile molecules released in the oral cavity flow through the nasopharynx to the nose and stimulate olfactory receptors. Because changes in smell greatly disrupt the ability to appreciate food flavors, eating becomes a dissatisfying experience, and the many social occasions that center around food can become awkward and frustrating. Moreover, the inability to detect leaking gas or ...

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