Everyone’s Sense Of Smell Is Unique, Says New Study

Benjamin Simon - Author
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Jun. 22 2015, Updated 3:06 p.m. ET

A new study suggests that every individual’s sense of smell differs slightly from other people, based on their genetic makeup.

According to Science News, a newly devised test can tell individuals apart solely based on their sense of smell, meaning a person’s perception of odor is unique to him or her. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and released on June 22. Neuroscientist Noam Sobel of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, led a team of researchers to the findings.

“Each person expresses a potentially unique subset of ∼400 different olfactory receptor subtypes,” says the study. “Given that the receptors we express partially determine the odors we smell, it follows that each person may have a unique nose.”

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While every person obviously perceives odors similarly, there are slight variations in how they perceive smells because of the genes they inherited, and that variation may not be quite as slight as you’d expect. The study claims that there is an approximate 30 percent difference between any two people’s sense of smell. This means one individual’s perception of the scent of chocolate could be 30 percent different than someone else’s. Sobel and his team are the first to develop a test to distinguish these subtle sensory differences in the olfactory receptors.

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