Hey, Can You Smell That…

Research Paper Title

Olfaction as a soldier: a review of the physiology and its present and future use in the military.


Olfaction is one of our 5 main qualitative sensory abilities. In this review, the researchers have examined the physiology of olfaction from the olfactory receptor to the brain.

Through analysing the physiology of olfaction, the  researchers have found that the biochemistry of olfactory nerve stimulation is unique from that of other similar pathways. Upon receiving large amounts of input from the olfactory nerve, the olfactory bulb, followed by several layers of centrifugal and centripetal processing in the brain, has to sort the information from the input as well as integrate it with other inputs from the brain to develop a coherent understanding of the input.

The researchers then examined the implications of olfaction in the military, the practical applications of electronic noses and problems associated with injury to olfaction that could affect compensation and combat worthiness of a soldier following injury. In the military, olfaction can allow the army to perform at its best through 4 main methods, namely:

  • Ensuring olfaction is consistent with other dimensions of perception (ensuring optimal olfaction ability in all soldiers in combat);
  • Understanding the impact of different common combat environments on the sense of smell;
  • Utilising odor as a defense mechanism; and
  • Using olfactory aids when necessary.

Electronic noses are olfactory aids that have a large potential in the military ranging from saving lives through the detection of explosives to potential methods for improving combustion efficiency.

There are several problems associated with injury to olfaction that should be considered when deciding on compensation and combat worthiness of the soldier following an injury.


Nagappan PG1, Subramaniam S2, Wang DY3,4. (2017) Olfaction as a soldier: a review of the physiology and its present and future use in the military. Military Medical Research. 4:9. doi: 10.1186/s40779-017-0119-4. eCollection 2017.


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