The nose ignores interruptions

Researchers investigate the influence of noise on the sense of smell in humans

Our nose is a fascinating organ: It is on the job 24/7 and when it has had enough of a certain smell, it simply ignores it. Odor monitoring, for example in the food industry, normally occurs in a quiet test setting, for it is assumed that extraneous noise can influence test results. Researchers at the University of Göttingen have discovered that such concerns are unwarranted: Noise has but very limited effect on the perceptive abilities of the human nose. The study was published in PLOS ONE.

Beginning in 2019 it will be forbidden to castrate piglets without the use of anesthetics due to regulations protecting animal rights. This has led to one of the greatest challenges ever faced by domestic animal breeders in Germany. As a consequence, researchers here, within the framework of a federally sponsored project, STRAT-E-GER, have investigated to what degree sensory quality controls can be implemented with respect to boar meat.

A widely accepted prerequisite for such sensory testing is a quiet environment. This, however, calls into question the reliability of sensory testing done in slaughterhouses due to ever-present noise in such facilities. To examine the influence of environmental noise on the sensory skills of human assessors, researchers carried out a variety of smell and sensory quality control tests with and without such external noise. Test persons wore headphones through which they heard slaughterhouse noises. In addition, the researchers investigated whether people who are used to noisy situations react differently to noise than people who are not used to such environs.

“Our unique study shows that constant noise in a particular environment has but little influence on the results obtained by our assessors regardless of what type of surroundings they are used to,” says Dr. Johanna Trautmann from the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Göttingen. “The human sense of smell is incredibly resistant to external disturbances. Our results are not only relevant to better understanding the human ability to smell; they are also relevant for the multitude of sensory quality controls carried out daily in the food industry.”

Contact:

Dr. Johanna Trautmann
University of Göttingen
Faculty of Agricultural Sciences
Department of Animal Sciences
Albrecht-Thaer-Weg 3, 37075 Göttingen, Germany
Phone +49 551 39-22772
Email: johanna.trautmann[at]agr.uni-goettingen.de
Web: www.uni-goettingen.de/en/86980.html