Study Takes Jab at Smell Theory

It finds vibrations have nothing to do with the scent of something

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TUESDAY, March 23, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A Rockefeller University study finds no evidence to support the controversial "vibration theory" of smell.

The researchers say their findings in the April issue of Nature Neuroscience raise firm doubts about the validity of the theory, which states that molecules in each substance generate a specific vibration frequency that the nose interprets as distinct smells.

Another theory of smell, favored by most scientists, is the shape theory. It states that the shape of a chemical determines how it smells. This is much the same way that taste works. The shape theory of smell also remains unproven.

"We didn't disprove the vibration theory. We just didn't find anything to support it," Leslie B. Vosshall, head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior, says in a prepared statement.

"All of our data are consistent with the shape theory, but don't prove the shape theory," Vosshall says.

This is the first time that the vibration theory has been subjected to a controlled and double-blind human test.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about smell.

SOURCE: Rockefeller University, news release, March 21, 2004

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