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Smell deals with deprivation differently

One olfactory brain region revs up in absence of input

When a cold takes away a person’s sense of smell, part of the brain that helps link odors with memory, emotion and reward works overtime in preparation for the return of air flow.

The way smell rebounds from a period of diminished sensory input distinguishes it from the other senses, researchers at the Northwestern University School of Medicine in Chicago report online August 12 in Nature Neuroscience.

Other senses tend to back off when their functions are restricted. When a person wears a patch over one eye, for example, the part of the brain devoted to processing information from that eye weakens while the part linked to the other eye grows stronger. The same is true for hearing and touch, such as when a person goes deaf in one ear or loses a finger.

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