Human beings are able to recognize and distinguish thousands of different odors present in the environment that influence their behavior and provide essential information for interaction with the external environment and for their survival. The olfactory system in fact is involved in the perception of chemicals involved in multiple physiological mechanisms such as neuroendocrine regulation, emotional responses (anxiety, fear, pleasure), reproductive functions (sexual and maternal behaviors) and relationships.
sexual and maternal behaviors) and social relationships (recognition of individuals of the same species or family, of prey and predators), food selection with the integration of olfactory and gustatory signals, recognition of harmful volatile substances
harmful volatile substances (environmental hazards from gases, fires). In order to carry out these very different functions, mammals possess two anatomically and functionally distinct olfactory organs. The main olfactory system, consisting of the olfactory epithelium, the main olfactory bulb and related cortical areas, allows the recognition of volatile odorous molecules. The accessory olfactory system, consisting of several neuronal groups and the vomeronasal organ, the accessory olfactory bulb and related cortical areas, is specialized in the detection of volatile odor molecules.
The accessory olfactory system, consisting of several neuronal groups and the vomeronasal organ, the accessory olfactory bulb and related cortical areas, is specialized in the detection of pheromones, substances secreted by an organism, which regulate physiological and behavioral responses of individuals of the same species. The molecular mechanisms related to the olfactory function provide, at a peripheral level, the
peripheral level, the uptake of chemicals and transduction operated by specific receptors expressed in the olfactory epithelium. In humans, the sense of smell is considered the least acute of the senses, and a number of animals are obviously superior to humans in their olfactory abilities. This difference is probably explained by the greater number of olfactory receptor neurons in the olfactory epithelium in many species and the relatively larger area of the cortex devoted to olfaction. In a 70-kg human, the surface area of the olfactory epithelium is approximately 10 cm2. In contrast, a 3 kg cat has about 20 cm2 of olfactory epithelium.
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