Olfactory Receptors

Olfactory (ol-fak'to-re) receptors, used to sense smells, are similar to those for taste in that they are chemore-ceptors sensitive to chemicals dissolved in liquids. These two chemical senses function closely together and aid in food selection, because we smell food at the same time we taste it. In fact, it is often difficult to tell what part of a food sensation is due to smell and what part is due to taste. For this reason, an onion tastes quite different when sampled with the nostrils closed, because much of the usual onion sensation is due to odor. Similarly, if excessive mucus secretions from an upper respiratory infection (such as a cold) cover the olfactory receptors, food may seem to lose its taste. About 75 to 80 percent of flavor actually derives from the sense of smell. Clinical Application 12.2 discusses an unusual type of sensory abnormality.

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