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Human noses can sniff 10 distinct types of odours

Washington: Researchers including to two Indian-origin have classified 10 types of odour s that we are able to smell.

Jason Castro from Bates College, Chakra Chennubhotla from the University of Pittsburgh, and Arvind Ramanathan from Oak Ridge National Laboratory used advanced statistical techniques to develop an approach for systematically describing smells.

Working with a standard set of data, Andrew Dravniek's 1985 Atlas of Odor Character Profiles, the researchers applied a mathematical method to simplify the olfactory information into coherent categories, similar to the way compressing a digital audio or image file reduces the file's size without, ideally, compromising its usefulness.

The team identified 10 basic odor qualities: fragrant, woody/resinous, fruity (non-citrus), chemical, minty/peppermint, sweet, popcorn, lemon and two kinds of sickening odors: pungent and decayed.

In ongoing work, the researchers are approaching the problem from the other direction, applying the current research to a bank of chemical structures in an attempt to predict how a given chemical is going to smell.

Castro said that this study supports the idea that the world of smells is tightly structured, and organized by a handful of basic categories.

The study has been published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.


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