Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Smelly Facts: Sense of Smell & Pregnancy

A few years ago, in 2007, I had reported here on Fragrance Bouquet on the mistaken, yet still propagated belief that the adult brain does not produce new neurons. In that post I explained that one of the two identified areas in the brain that constantly see the birth of new neurons is the olfactory system (the other is the hippocampus). As I reported back then, neurons in the olfactory system constantly die off, mostly due to their constant exposure to harmful agents and thankfully, they are constantly replaced. Recently, while reading the astonishingly interesting and very humorously written Why Zebras don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky as part of the obligatory books to be learned for my exams in Health Psychology, I came across the following related excerpt which I provide here for your pleasure:

“It turns out that there is a huge burst in the production of those new olfactory neurons early during pregnancy. They are fully on line just around the time of birth, and the scientists who discovered this speculated that these new olfactory neurons are tagged for the task of imprinting forever on the smell of your offspring (a critical event for mothers of most mammals). And what happens early in pregnancy, when those new olfactory neurons are showing up, but not quite making sense yet? I bet this has something to do with the famed nausea of pregnancy, the food aversions and olfactory sensitivities.”

- Sapolsky, R. M., 2004. Why Zebras don’t Get Ulcers. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, LLC

Image: Flickr by Raphael Goetter


The Daily Connoisseur said...

This is really fascinating! xo

Anonymous said...

Yes! When I was pregnant with my first child, I couldn't stand the smell of meat. I also suddenly couldn't stand the smell of my then signature fragrance, Magie Noire. Ultimately I decided not to wear perfume around my babies, so I could enjoy their natural smell and they could enjoy mine. Now that they're grown, I'm back to my passion for perfume.

SignatureScent said...

Interesting to hear the science behind why women become so much more sensitive to smell during pregnancy.

Gator Grad said...

Wow- no perfume around your babies? That's quite a commitment (clearly, I'm not a mom). I would think that exposing them to perfumes at a young age might shape their pallettes in a nice way and expand their minds (similarly to the idea of exposing them to classical music). But then again, I might just be angling for an excuse to wear perfume when I have children...

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