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Why do we get used to smells? © iStock

Why do we get used to smells?

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Your nose might be hiding things from you about familiar smells.

Asked by: Paul Mellor, St Albans


Our nervous system has evolved to become progressively less sensitive to a stimulus, the longer it persists. This enables us to concentrate on the newest sensations that are more likely to be an opportunity or a threat. We also have an olfactory memory that discards smells that we have experienced recently. This means that you don’t notice the smell of your house when you come home from work, but it smells strange when you come back from holiday.


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luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


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