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The Science of Smell

The human sense of smell is linked directly to the limbic system, home of the emotional centers of the brain. Human responses to aromas have been proven to occur powerfully on emotional and sub-conscious levels, with cognitive responses being secondary to emotional effects.

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The scientific study of human olfaction is still very much in its infancy. In the last decade scientists studying smell have shown over and over that smell affects us in surprisingly powerful and profound ways. Unlike the other primary senses, smell is a chemical sense–it is based upon our olfactory perception of the presence of combinations of odorant molecules present in the air. These odor molecules stimulate some of the millions of human olfactory receptors as they physically connect to specific receptors, like puzzle pieces, initiating a cascate of physiological and emotional responses that occur whether or not the person is conscious of their presence. The sense of smell is also far more sensitive than most people realize. Most people can distinguish among some 10,000 different smells.

Whether people are conscious of it or not, the sense of smell may play an important role in CPAP therapy. Much of the irritation and frustration people experience while using a CPAP may be attributed to the volatile plastic chemicals that are constantly released by the plastics used to make CPAP equipment. Even in small amounts (even below conscious detection levels), these plastic compounds are highly irritating. Very small amounts of pleasant aromatics may be all that is needed to overcome the unpleasant smells associated with CPAP equipment.