Can You Smell Pain? Science Says You Can
by John Douillard
There are decades of research that support the connection between the sense of smell, memories and emotion. (2) Perfumes, a holiday fire, Christmas trees, hospitals, ball fields, spring, fall, winter – all have unique scents that deliver emotions, childhood memories and heightened states of awareness. New research suggests that the smell or scent of someone in pain could actually trigger the transference of that pain to the person who smelled the person in pain.
A new study published in the journal Nature found that when mice were living in the same quarters as other mice, certain types of pain were transferred from one mouse to the other… through the sense of smell.
When people are exposed to certain inflammatory molecules, or they are battling with withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, they can experience extreme sensitivity to touch, chemical irritants or heat. The skin becomes hypersensitive and painful to the touch, and this is exacerbated by chemicals, heat and odors.
“Andrey Ryabinin and his colleagues at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland found that when mice were subjected to these pain-inducing treatments, untreated mice in the same room also acquired sensory pain to touch. Moreover, mice in a separate room began displaying this pain sensitivity after exposure to bedding used by the hypersensitive animals in the first room. The authors conclude that the pain is transmitted by an olfactory cue.” (1)
The researchers concluded that chronic pain in humans that presents with no apparent structural, physiological or traumatic cause could be due to the social transfer of pain caused by the scent of someone in pain who you are in close proximity with. Perhaps the message is to be aware of the scents you frequent in your environment.