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Mapping Aroma: Smells light up distinct brain parts

Researchers decades ago mapped out the brain's sense of touch, with patches of neurons corresponding to body parts, such as a hand, a lip, or the torso. A new study suggests that the sense of smell may have its own brain atlas. The finding adds to a growing body of research on smell, which scientists haven't studied as much as touch, hearing, or sight.

Last year, Linda Buck of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and Richard Axel of Columbia University shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work in deciphering the mechanisms behind smell (SN: 10/9/04, p. 229: Available to subscribers at Nobel prizes: The sweet smell of success). Over the past 15 years, the two scientists have independently worked out how scents are perceived by olfactory neurons in the nose. Their work has also detailed how these neurons transmit signals to the olfactory bulb, a structure at the front of the brain.

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