Unveiling the Mysteries of Smell: Reflections from Nazareth Castellanos’ Conference at the Prado Museum

In a fascinating conference held at the prestigious Prado Museum, distinguished neuroscientist Nazareth Castellanos took us on a profound journey into the world of the human sense of smell. Through her research and discoveries, Castellanos offered us a unique and revealing insight into the fundamental role played by the sense of smell in our lives.

One of the first reflections Castellanos shared was the competition between the sense of smell and language. When we smell, our language areas recede, making it difficult for us to put names to smells. This neuronal competition reveals the complexity of our sensory perception and how different brain systems interact with each other.

Historically, smell has been underestimated due to the seemingly small size of the olfactory bulb in relation to the total brain volume. However, recent studies have shown that, despite its small size, the glands of the human olfactory bulb contain the same number of neurons as those of other mammalian species. This finding highlights the importance of smell in the plasticity and functioning of the human brain.

The nose, as Castellanos pointed out, acts like an alembic, cleaning, warming, and humidifying the air before it reaches the olfactory bulb. The latter distributes smells throughout the brain, affecting key areas such as learning, attention, memory, and perceptions. This process reveals the deep connection between smell and other aspects of human cognition.

One particularly interesting discovery is the effect of nasal inspiration on neuron alignment in the olfactory bulb. When we inhale through the nose, previously disordered neurons align, and if the inspiration is accompanied by a smell, this experience becomes conscious, and the neurons align even more. This phenomenon illustrates how the olfactory experience can influence neuronal organization and conscious perception.

Furthermore, Castellanos highlighted the role of smell as a key to interaction between the heart and the brain, especially in feelings-based experiences. Aromas have the unique power to evoke memories and deep emotions, connecting our inner world with the outer world in an intimate and powerful way.

In conclusion, Nazareth Castellanos’ conference left us with a deep appreciation for the sense of smell and its impact on our lives. Her research invites us to reflect on the complexity and importance of this underestimated sense and inspires us to explore more deeply the fascinating world of smells and the emotions they evoke.

“The amphora always retains the aroma of the first wine it held.”


Last updated: April 2024″