Brief Communication | Published:

Olfaction

The world smells different to each nostril

Nature volume 402, page 35 (04 November 1999) | Download Citation

Subjects

Abstract

The flow of air is greater into one nostril than into the other because there is a slight turbinate swelling in one1,2,3. The nostril that takes in more air switches from the left to the right one and back again every few hours4,5,6, but the effect of this switching on the sense of smell has been unclear7,8. Here we show that this difference in airflow between the nostrils causes each nostril to be optimally sensitized to different odorants, so that each nostril conveys a slightly different olfactory image to the brain.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    Arch. Laryngol. 3, 101–120 (1895).

  2. 2.

    & Arch. Otolaryngol. 9, 71–77 (1970).

  3. 3.

    & Mayo Clin. Proc. 52, 28–34 (1977).

  4. 4.

    , & Laryngoscope 107, 62–66 (1997).

  5. 5.

    & Acta Otolaryngol. 104, 180–186 (1987).

  6. 6.

    & J. Anat. 110, 25–27 (1971).

  7. 7.

    , & Acta Otolaryngol. 108, 268–273 (1989).

  8. 8.

    Handbook of Olfaction and Gustation (ed. Doty, R. L.) 471–491 (Dekker, New York, 1995).

  9. 9.

    & Science 181, 1247–1249 (1973).

  10. 10.

    et al. Chem. Sens. 16, 631–649 (1991).

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

  1. *Program in Neuroscience, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • Noam Sobel
    • , Edith V. Sullivan
    •  & John D. E. Gabrieli
  2. †Departments of Psychology, Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • Rehan M. Khan
    •  & John D. E. Gabrieli
  3. ‡Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ramle 72100, Israel

    • Amnon Saltman
  4. §Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • Edith V. Sullivan

Authors

  1. Search for Noam Sobel in:

  2. Search for Rehan M. Khan in:

  3. Search for Amnon Saltman in:

  4. Search for Edith V. Sullivan in:

  5. Search for John D. E. Gabrieli in:

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Noam Sobel.

About this article

Publication history

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/46944

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.