Anxiety improves a person's ability to smell potentially threatening odors, according to a new study.
Smell is essential to animals in order to detect, locate and identify predators. Odors also trigger powerful emotional responses in humans, the study authors pointed out.
Researchers Elizabeth Krusemark and Wen Li of the University of Wisconsin-Madison exposed 14 young adults to different types of odors while they underwent MRI brain scans. The participants' anxiety levels and breathing patterns were also recorded.
As the volunteers' anxiety levels rose, so did their ability to detect negative odors. The investigators also found that communication between the sensory and emotional areas of the brain increased in response to negative odors, particularly when people were anxious.
Original Citation: Krusemark, E.A., Li, W. (2012). Enhanced Olfactory Sensory Perception of Threat in Anxiety: An Event-Related fMRI Study, Chemosensory Perception, 5,1, 37-45.
In : Olfaction