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MAKING SENSE OF SCENTS: SMELL AND THE BRAIN

With every whiff you take as you walk by a bakery, a cloud of chemicals comes swirling up your nose. Identifying the smell as freshly baked bread is a complicated process. But, compared to the other senses, the sense of smell is often underappreciated. Scientists studying olfaction have shed light on how our sense of smell works and provided compelling evidence that it’s more sophisticated than previously thought.

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Image credit: “A Human Nose” by Bradley Gordon is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

SOBERING STATISTICS

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If scientific research is ever going to get its much-needed increase in funding, we have to change the public’s perception of research:

A 2012 survey of Americans found that only 50% of respondents believe the benefits of scientific research “strongly” outweigh the bad. Another 22% said the benefits are only “slight,” while 7% feel the negatives outweigh the positive entirely.

The good news is that, in the same survey, the vast majority (83%) of respondents supported federal funding of scientific research. But 45% thought the current levels of funding were adequate, while only 38% said funding needs to increase.

Read more about this survey and the public’s opinion of science and technology in this 2014 report from the National Science Foundation: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind14/index.cfm/chapter-7

SHEDDING LIGHT ON MACULAR DEGENERATION

In the most severe cases, macular degeneration slowly robs individuals of the ability to read, write, drive, and even recognize the faces of people around them. It’s caused by a progressive loss of the part of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision.

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Image credit: National Eye Institute