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The 29-year-old woman's brain scan was puzzling to say the least: It revealed she was missing brain structures she needed to be able to smell, yet she could sniff out odors even better than the average person.
It turns out, she's not the only one with this mysterious ability, according to a new study published today (Nov. 6) in the journal Neuron. Doctors have discovered a small group of people that seem to defy medical science: They can smell despite lacking "olfactory bulbs," the region in the front of the brain that processes information about smells from the nose. It's not clear how they are able to do this, but the findings suggest that the human brain may have a greater ability to adapt than previously thought.
Group - Researchers - Israel - Discovery - Chance
A group of researchers in Israel made this discovery by chance: They were conducting a different study that involved imaging the brains of patients with a normal sense of smell using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). But they noticed that one woman seemed to be missing her olfactory bulbs.
The scientists thought this was surprising because the ad for their study had noted participants should have a good sense of smell, and yet, based on her brain scan, the woman shouldn't be able to smell. The researchers thought "maybe she didn't notice" that part of the ad, said senior author Noam Sobel, a professor of neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. But when they asked her, she said she had a very good sense of smell.
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