Alcohol can boost sense of smell, claims study

25th July, 2014 by Amy Hopkins

People who consume a small amount of alcohol experience a heightened sense of smell, scientists in Israel have found.


A recent study has concluded that a modest amount of alcohol can improve a person’s sense of smell

According to researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, smell sensitivity can be dampened by a person’s cerebral inhibitions, which are lifted when they consume alcohol.

The New Scientists reports that the study involved 20 volunteers who took part in a sensory test during which they were asked to smell three different liquids.

Two were a mixture of the same six odours, the third contained a similar mixture with one odour replaced. Volunteers were given two seconds to smell each sample and identify the odd one out, a test which was repeated six times.

Participants were then given either vodka and fruit juice, or just the juice alone, before the experiment was repeated.

The volunteers with a higher blood-alcohol level were found to be able to better detect and discriminate between different odours.

Researchers then conducted a similar test in bars across Rehovot and Herzliya, asking volunteers to perform scratch and sniff tests to identify between different odours.

Low alcohol levels were again found to improve performance, but those volunteers who had consumed too much, that is about two units within an hour for women and three for men, had a significantly worse sense of smell.

“If we knew more about the mechanisms that caused this inhibition, then it might shed light on why some people lose their sense of smell and may be helpful for some kinds of olfactory loss,” Yaara Endevelt, one of the experiment’s researchers, told the New Scientist.

The study was published in the academic journal Behavioural Brain Research.

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