The scent of fear and artificial hibernation

The past few weeks for me have been characterized by waiting, uncertainty, and associated anxiety. If anything is effective at encouraging a typically wandering mind to focus on the present moment, it is circumstantial limbo. The gut and other inner organs might join in the fun in other ways. All for the better, in my case, as far as expectations go.

In the meantime, I have diligently gone through my remaining sample perfumes and used up as much as I can. Some of those happened to be rose dominant: Hiram Green Lustre, an old-fashioned rose soliflore whose slogan, “Life Is Golden,” attracted me more than the wilted-petal scent itself; and Les Parfums de Rosine Rose par Essence, which smelled a lot more citrusy to my other half and like a pear soli-fruit to me than the essential oil of rose, the crowned queen of flowers. After a wash, the stretchy polyester/spandex top on which I poured my last 1 mL of Élisire Oderose has transmitted the fragrance by convection to the polyester jacket adjacent to it, as well as diffused the multiplied scent throughout the rest of the closet space. Perhaps a generous layering of Le Labo Lys 41 from my travel spray will set it straight at the next laundering.

Academic research waits for no personal perfume mishaps, however, and according to the news, Kansai University has been busy discovering olfactory stimuli that may induce artificial hibernation in mice (and because the gene responsible for the physiologic response is conserved in humans, this may, according to the Nature Communications Biology abstract and associated press release[s], give rise to a new field of “sensory medicine.”) In short, thiazoline-related fear odors (tFOs) have been demonstrated to induce innate fear responses, such as “freezing behavior” involving decreased heart rate and reduced core body temperature in mice. These involuntary changes correlated with the ability to survive with drastically reduced oxygen levels and prevent ischemia-reperfusion injury in skin compared with mice that did not have such responses artificially induced. The specific “fear odors” thus produced “latent life-protective effects,” and this is hypothesized to occur by activating a receptor protein called transient receptor potential ankyrin type 1 (TRPA1) in the trigeminal nerve, which then transmits information to the brainstem area.

(Much more useful than the “strong trigeminal effect” claimed by offensive, powerful, woody-amber aromachemicals such as Z11 MIP, no?)

The significance of these findings partly lies in that this response is the opposite of the well-known “fight or flight” phenomenon that accompanies a conditioned fear odor stimulus, which induces an increase in body temperature. In other words, being “paralyzed with fear” may be advantageous in some situations, and if scientists could figure out how to harness this state appropriately, it could be therapeutic.

One thought on “The scent of fear and artificial hibernation

  1. I’m glad that you’ve got a resolution to the uncertainty you had to live through: it’s always unpleasant, and sometimes even a negative result is a positive result.

    I read through the portion about the study twice: even in this simplified report it’s too scientific for my pre-coffee Sunday morning brain. It’s interesting. Smells do act on the subconscious level, so it would be interesting if it could be used to achieve therapeutic effects.

    Liked by 1 person

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