Some people can pinpoint odors better than others—which can be both good or bad, depending on the source. But new research reveals that it’s people who are more anxious that have a heightened sense of smell.
The study, published in Chemosensory Perception, looked into how anxiety was related to the ability to detect odor. Participants were asked if they could detect a number of smells—both good and bad—in stressed and unstressed states. In all cases, their anxiety was measured using breathing rate, skin electrical conductivity and a survey.
The researchers found a strong correlation between anxiety and ability to smell odors—particularly unpleasant ones. They speculate that it’s an evolutionary phenomenon: a heightened sense of smell can help to detect predators or disease-carriers, exactly the times that one may become anxious.
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