Sense of smell is strictly personal, study suggests | Science News

ADVERTISEMENT

MISSION CRITICAL

Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.


News

Sense of smell is strictly personal, study suggests

‘Olfactory fingerprint’ could be tough target for identity theft

By
3:00pm, June 22, 2015
olfactory fingerprints

SOLE SCENTS   “Olfactory fingerprints,” such as the two represented graphically above for two different people, represent a person’s individual sense of smell. Warmer colors represent greater perceived similarity between two odors. 

A person’s sense of smell may reveal a lot about his or her identity.

A new test can distinguish individuals based upon their perception of odors, possibly reflecting a person’s genetic makeup, scientists report online June 22 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Most humans perceive a given odor similarly. But the genes for the molecular machinery that humans use to detect scents are about 30 percent different in any two people, says neuroscientist Noam Sobel of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. This variation means that nearly every person’s sense of smell is subtly different. Nobody had ever developed a way to test this sensory uniqueness, Sobel says.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content