How The Nose Knows

Researchers discover the first known genes of smell and unlock one of the mysteries of the primitive brain

The sense of smell is the most primitive of the five senses, a throwback to the primordial mists when the brain was scarcely developed. It is also the least understood sense. The human nose can distinguish an extraordinary bouquet of odors, some 10,000 in all, and other animals can better that. It has long been recognized that moths, for example, are exquisitely sensitive to certain pheromone molecules and can sniff out a potential mate half a mile away. But scientists could not begin to explain precisely how they did it.

Until last week. In a discovery that promises to open up...

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