Stress can make good smells turn bad
New research suggests that stress and anxiety can cause a person to perceive smells to be unusually unpleasant, according to research published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The two parts of the brain analyzed in this study—the emotional centers and the center that processes smells—are distinct and typically are independent. But this research found that they can become intimately intertwined under certain emotional conditions.
Researchers used brain imaging technologies to understand how stress and anxiety can rewire the parts of the brain that process smells. They induced anxiety by showing study participants disturbing pictures and text, including car crashes and war. And they found that people perceived neutral smells as negative when in a heightened state of anxiety.
The results are significant in that they could help uncover the biological mechanisms that occur when humans undergo periods of stress. More research is needed, however, to better understand the relationship between the brain’s emotional and olfactory processes.