Why smells don’t change with locations

A cup of coffee on the beach
(© stock.adobe.com)

Why does coffee smell like coffee, whether on a San Diego beach or in the middle of Manhattan? Olfactory systems can distinguish incoming odors from backgrounds, even though different odors activate many of the same olfactory receptors.

A new theoretical study from the lab of Thierry Emonet, associate professor of molecular, cellular & developmental biology and of physics, shows how a recently-discovered adaptation in olfactory receptor neurons can solve the problem of odor coding in different environments. 

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Bill Hathaway: william.hathaway@yale.edu, 203-432-1322