Can you smell the music?

New research has discovered a fascinating crossover between the senses. Researchers came upon the idea by accident, when they discovered while in the midst of an experiment on olfaction, that the olfactory tubercle in their rodent subjects’ brains also lit up when a noise was made. They enlarged their study to focus on the relationship between sound and smell. In this part of the brain, while some of the cells responded just to the presence of odor, a good number of them also were active in when a sound was played. Other cells reacted differently when both sound and smell were introduced together.

Other research with humans was done to test this relationship between smell and hearing. Participants in the study were asked to smell different smells present in wine and then associate them with musical instrument and pitch. They found striking similarities among answers, with piano matched to fruity scents and brass to musky and unpleasant smells.

This crossover reinforces neuromarketing findings where sensory perceptions are often described using words normally associated with different senses, and corresponding parts of the brain are stimulated at the same time. It also explains the super-additive effect of using multiple senses in marketing, which is one of the topics that Dr. Maureen Morrin has researched in depth and will be discussing at the upcoming ScentWorld 2013, February 6-8 in New York.

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