Daily Bulletin


News

  • Written by Thijs Dhollander, Post-doctoral neuroscientist, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health

While looking at the MRI brain scan of a 29-year-old woman that had been taken for a different study, researchers in Israel recently stumbled upon a scientific mystery. The woman appears to have no olfactory bulbs.

Some women seem to lack a key brain structure for smell -- but their sense of smell is fine Left: a brain scan showing the olfactory bulbs at the bottom of the brain, right above the nasal cavities. Right: the 29-year-old woman has no apparent olfactory bulbs. Weiss T. et al.

People like me and most of you have two of these bulbs: they sit right above your nasal cavities, snuggled up against the bottom of your brain. They’re small but important little processing boxes: the nerves in your nose that pick up scents around you feed into these bulbs.

The far end of each bulb has a “cable” sticking out (the olfactory tract) that sends processed information deeper into the almighty computer of the brain. The brain then makes further sense of things.

All of these delicate components work together, granting you the sense of smell! Some brains do have damaged olfactory bulbs or none at all: this is sometimes seen in people with anosmia, an inability to smell.

But back to our 29-year-old woman who appears to lack olfactory bulbs. It turns out her sense of smell is perfectly fine. So what’s going on here?

The researchers – a team led by Professor Noam Sobel from the Department of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science – asked me (all the way across the world at the Florey Institute in Australia!) to help them study the mystery, and the results have just been published in the journal Neuron.

Read more: Curious Kids: How do we smell?

Discovering new mysteries

As a scientist, the second best thing is to solve great mysteries. But the absolute best experience is to discover new mysteries. Solving a mystery is an achievement; discovering a new mystery is the start of an adventure.

I still remember vividly when Tali Weiss and Timna Soroka, the lead authors of the work about the missing olfactory bulbs, approached me at a scientific conference in Paris, and told me about their odd finding. It took me at least half an hour to understand what they were exactly describing, because I’m an engineer, not a neurobiologist.

But it turned out an engineer like me was just what they needed: I’m an expert who invents new ways to analyse certain types of MRI brain scans. Though I work in neuroscience, I have a background in computer science, not biology or medicine. This is multidisciplinary science in action.

When they told me about missing olfactory bulbs, I first couldn’t believe it. To me, it sounded like they were saying the wiring from the nose to the brain was “cut”. But then they explained me what’s currently thought to be the function of the olfactory bulb, and that their images showed these little processing boxes were apparently “missing” along the cable from nose to brain. Aha! Ok, still weird though. And so I got dragged into this mystery.

Some women seem to lack a key brain structure for smell -- but their sense of smell is fine Different kinds of images are looked at to investigate the subjects. This image is a processed result of diffusion MRI data, reconstructed using new methods. On the left, the arrows indicate where the olfactory bulb and tract are. On the right, the result for the 29-year-old woman reveals an apparent absence of olfactory bulbs. Weiss T. et al.

As the 29-year-old woman was also left-handed, they started scanning other left-handed and similarly aged women. It only took nine such scans to discover another person without apparent olfactory bulbs, but a good sense of smell. The plot thickens!

Among the experiments, a massive open data set of very high quality was also checked: of 1,113 people (606 women), three others were found without apparent olfactory bulbs, but with the sense of smell. None were men. One was left-handed.

So what did we learn? Well, likely that we need to go back to the drawing board regarding our understanding of the sense of smell, and the role of the olfactory bulb in it.

But we’re also asking questions about the extent to which we can see and identify things on some of these images. This is the kind of research that provides us many more new questions than answers. Exciting!

Read more: Mapping the brain: scientists define 180 distinct regions, but what now?

Fancy brain images

As I said earlier, I’m an engineer. Projects like these only succeed when scientists collaborate across disciplines, combining all their individual skills towards a joint effort. I’ve helped the other researchers in this work to process and understand one of the kinds of data they collected, diffusion MRI data, using new methods I developed over here in Australia.

We also use these methods to help plan brain tumour surgeries, and they allow for some pretty impressive visualisations of the brain’s internal wiring!

Diffusion MRI tractography can generate impressive visualisations of the internal wiring of the brain.

Authors: Thijs Dhollander, Post-doctoral neuroscientist, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health

Read more http://theconversation.com/some-women-seem-to-lack-a-key-brain-structure-for-smell-but-their-sense-of-smell-is-fine-126496

Writers Wanted

One quarter of Australian 11-12 year olds don't have the literacy and numeracy skills they need

arrow_forward

Step-by-Step Process of Filing Bankruptcy in Georgia

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Business News

AppDynamics Solves Visibility Gap Between Traditional Infrastructure and Cloud Environments

New Full Stack Observability Platform, Integration With Cisco Intersight Workload Optimizer and Cloud Native Visualisation Features Provide Cross Domain Insights and Analytics of Business Perfor...

Hotwire Global - avatar Hotwire Global

Why Your Small Business Should Bulk Buy Hand Sanitiser

As a small business owner, employee and customer safety is at the very top of your priority list. From risk assessments to health and safety officers, appropriate signage and proper briefing...

News Co - avatar News Co

How Phone Number Search In Sydney Can Help Your Business

To run a successful business, keeping track of your company and competitors are the major factors. With a lot of tools, available businesses have options to stay current. One way in which busine...

News Co - avatar News Co



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion