Olfactory Adaptation

Walking into a barnyard can be an overpowering experience. The rich and varied smells one experiences are the result of molecules being inhaled up the nose and activating our olfactory system—the sense of smell. Fortunately, and perhaps surprisingly, this barnyard bouquet of smells fairly rapidly vanishes. After a few minutes of exposure, we no longer smell those odors that were so overwhelming on our arrival. The odor molecules are still present, but our response has diminished. This is called olfactory adaptation.

All sensory systems are able to adjust their responsiveness to input based on recent stimulation history and context. In olfaction, repeated or prolonged odor stimulation can lead to adaptation and a decrease in how strongly the sensory system responds. This decrease in the brain's response ...

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