With more brain cells, women have better sense of smell than men: study

The study has found that the region of brain that processes odors is 40-50 percent larger in women than in men

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The notion that women have a better sense of smell than men has won scientific backing.

Led by a team of researchers from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, a study has found that the region of brain that processes odors is 40-50 percent larger in women than in men, which may explain the olfactory difference between the genders.


The study, published on the scientific journal PLOS ONE, serves as evidence to the wide notion that women outperform men in the evaluation of odors, and suggests that biological differences, and not emotional or cognitive, could account for this.

Scientists measured the absolute number of cells (neurons) in the olfactory bulb, the first region to detect olfactory information captured by the nostrils, using a new technique called the isotropic fractionators.

The recently-developed technique “allows [the] determination of absolute cell composition in the brain,” according to the study.

The team measured the number of cells in 18 “neurologically healthy” post-mortem brains – from seven men and 11 women – who were all above 55 at the time of death. The examination found that “Women showed higher absolute number of cells than men: 16.2 million, against 9.2 million in males, a significant difference of 43.2%”

“This large quantitative sexual dimorphism in the human olfactory bulb may be the morphological surrogate of sex differences in olfactory functions, most of which favor women as compared to men,” the study concluded.

Speaking about the experiment, Roberto Lent, the study’s leading researcher, told Mail Online: “Generally speaking, larger brains with larger numbers of neurons correlate with the functional complexity provided by these brains.”

“Thus, it makes sense to think that more neurons in the female olfactory bulbs would provide women with higher olfactory sensitivity,” Lent said adding “that the fact that few cells are added to our brains throughout life suggests that women are already born with these extra cells.”

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