Submitted by: Isiah H.
Last updated: 9/29/11

How does it work?
When air goes into the nasal passages(your nostrils) it brings scents with it, and nerve endings pick up those scents. The nerve endings talk to the brain and tell it about the sent. One of the biggest parts of the smell system is the Olfactory Membrane, which is 2 yellow-gray places about the size of your average, everyday postage stamp. It contains tens of millions of receptor cells, which are tiny little cells that react strongly to chemicals and make smells. A gooey substance called mucus, that many know as snot, helps us smell by protecting sensitive smelling areas, and it carries small particles to the earlier mentioned olfactory membrane .For the olfactory membrane to receive smells, the must first be dissolved in a liquid , and mucus, is the liquid that does the job for humans. Smell particles go into the nose and nasal passages in the air when it is inhaled, or in other words breathed in. The particles are absorbed by the mucus and then enter the olfactory membrane and the receptor cells are stimulated. Which is just basically means it is being satisfied and entertained by doing it's job.

This shows a woman smelling a flower, the scent particles are going to the olfactory membrane.

This shows a young child sniffing a flower. The scent particles are traveling up the nasal passages up to the olfactory membrane.

Cool facts
  • Smelling can save your life by doing things like, allowing you to smell a gas leak or smelling smoke
  • The sense of smell is considered least important because no one really thinks about it
  • Some call it the forgotten sense
  • Some scientists think that smell was the first sense, that it came along before any of the other sense
  • They think that the first animals on Earth could smell before any they had any of the other senses
  • Smell can make you remember memories from longer ago and twice as well as the other senses and that is because the nose to brain message passageway goes in the long- term memory, pleasure, and emotion.
  • Smell helps babies bond with their mom and dad by allowing it to be able to tell its mother from other people by their odor

How you smell and breathe
Smelling and breathing usually happen simultaneously. Though your nostrils take turns on which one is breathing, and they switch every 3 to 4 hrs. . Mucus helps you breathe, and smell by keeping your nose moist, when the dry air is passing through the nasal passages.



Weiss, Ellen. The Sense of Smell. New York: Children's Press, 2009. Print.
Silverstein, Alvin, Virginia Silverstein, and Robert Silverstein. "SECTION 2: THE SENSE OF SMELL." Respiratory System (9780805028317). 24. Lerner Publishing Group, 1994. Science Reference Center. EBSCO. Web. 23 Sept. 2011.