Thursday, February 17, 2011

Annals of Anosmia 6: The Literary Nasal Cycle

It looks like we may be in for another flurry of first-person anosmic essays in the legacy media. The last burst of activity ran from 2003 to 2008; the new cycle began in mid-2010 and continued its upswing this week.

On Monday, using Valentine’s Day as a story hook, thirty-five-year-old Stephen Adams took to the pages of the UK’s Telegraph to describe the anosmia which began after he suffered a head cold.
Eighteen months ago, my sense of smell largely deserted me. With it went some of my sense of taste, leaving me with a much reduced palate and a narrow range of alien flavours.
As per the rules of the genre, Adams offers a list of experts consulted; in his case they are Prof. Tim Jacobs at Cardiff University in Wales, and an ENT specialist. The ENT orders nasal endoscopy to look for polyps and a CT brain scan to look for a tumor. Both results are negative.

Adams, like Lowndes, fails to mention the 2004 Nobel Prize for the discovery of olfactory receptors. Perhaps this is merely old-fashioned Anglo anti-American snobbery or perhaps the Nobel is no longer a key feature of the genre.

Meanwhile, the jury is still out on my two key literary predictions: no sign yet of I-am-a –celebrity-anosmic essays, nor of soul-searching reflections by researchers seeking more grant money. But the cycle is young and time will tell.

1 comment:

EdC said...

Are the red zones in the picture the regions with the olefactory receptors or the parts of the system (limbic?) where the receptor signals are integrated?

Is there a good brain map somewhere that shows where the OR are located, where the signals are integrated to identify coffee or roses or manure or..., where they go to interface with our words for those smells, where they go to interface with our memories of those smells, and where they go to interface with our emotional responses to those smells?