4 Crazy Facts About Your Nose
Our noses are more than just the entryway to our olfactory system – you know; that system of senses that allows us to taste and smell. There are big ones, small ones, ridged ones, flared ones, hooked ones, pointed ones, flat ones, and everything else in between. No matter the shape and size, the nose is a pretty amazing organ that – as mentioned – does a lot more than just help us breathe and smell.
In fact, this little…or big…organ has many fascinating attributes and we’re sniffing them all out for you in this article.
So, let’s nose-dive in.
Finding The Way
From Bloodhounds to Basset Hounds; the acute sense of smell that our four-legged counterparts have can help them find a proverbial needle in a haystack. While most of us already know this fun fact, what you might not know is that you have a similar ability to find your way using your sense of smell. No kidding! It’s been hypothesized, with great results via scientific study, that our sense of smell was once used as a means for us to seek out food. Not only were we able to use it for foraging purposes during our hunter-gatherer days, but it also helped us determine which foods were potentially good for us and which weren’t.
Is it really any surprise that we still do this today? Think about it: It’s late. You’ve just come back home from work and you had virtually zero energy to stop off and pick up something to eat on your way home. After rummaging around in the fridge, you spot a bowl of leftover pasta from that dinner you had with a colleague just two nights ago. What’s the first thing you do? That’s right. You open the lid and sniff the contents. See! We still have some of those old instincts ingrained in us.
An Emotional Radar
According to a paper titled ‘Nose Heat: Exploring Stress-induced Nasal Thermal Variability through Mobile Thermal Imaging’, our noses get colder as our stress levels increase. One theory indicates that when we undergo mental stress, our breathing slows down, becoming irregular and shallow. Furthermore, our blood circulation takes a different turn, diverting blood flow from non-essential areas of our body to our brain. This is done to fuel oxygenation to the brain and, thus, help us mentally deal with the stress at hand.
In the study, several participants were fitted with a modified helmet that records thermal images. They were then put through a series of physical and mental activities. As sure as day, the harder the tasks got, the higher their stress levels were. In turn, the higher their stress levels rose, the colder their noses became.
Now that’s nothing to sneeze at! (Okay, that’s the last one. Scout’s honor this time.)
Breathe in The Memories
Your sense of smell is linked to your sense of taste and it’s no wonder that smelling your food helps you taste it in more depth. However, it also helps you remember the taste. When undergoing a study to figure out why this is, several researchers found that people who breathe through their nose have better memory retention.
The results of the study were published in an article titled ‘Respiration Modulates Olfactory Memory Consolidation in Humans’ and they showed that of the two control groups – those who breathed through their mouths and those who breathed through their noses – almost all of those who breathed through their noses exhibited better memory retention of smells presented to them during the study. Those who breathed through their mouths before being presented with a scent struggled to recall the scents by comparison.
“Don’t tell a lie or your nose will grow…”
Did you ever have that old wives’ tale thrown your way when you were a kid? If you did, then you’ll probably know that your parents were alluding to the old Disney favorite, Pinnochio, and how his nose grew every time he told a lie.
While our noses might not grow a couple of inches whenever we “decorate” the truth, they do get warmer. You heard that right. Lying triggers similar responses in our brain that strong emotions do and when this happens our brain element known as “insula” gets activated. Long story short, lying makes you feel anxious, on-edge, and bad – well, in most people with a conscience, anyway. When that happens the tissue around your nose and eyes flares up.
As you can see, your nose is an amazing little organ that is often taken for granted. Now that you know all these weird and wonderful facts about it, you can bulk up your memory, call someone out on a lie, or recognize stress symptoms in yourself and those around you.