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As a person inhales, air and scent molecules move past the smell receptors in the nose. In turn, the smell receptors relay a signal to the brain. Smells can trigger memories and emotional responses.

Review Date 8/1/2017

Updated by: Ashutosh Kacker, MD, FACS, Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Attending Otolaryngologist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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