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When the Nose Doesn't Know

Loss of smell can be distressing and is associated with disorders such as depression. Smell training may help recover the sense
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Magdalena Fluegge is devoted to her exercise routine, and she has been training hard for months now. Every morning and afternoon, without fail, she hefts four small brown glass vessels. They contain gauze strips saturated with different fragrances. She opens each flask in turn and inhales deeply. She hopes for a scent--any scent--to register in her brain.

Fluegge, who lost nearly all her ability to smell after striking the back of her head in a bicycle accident, is a volunteer in a study at the Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic at the University of Dresden Medical School in Germany. The goal is to see whether people with smell disorders can regain their abilities through training, similar to the way perfumers and sommeliers can learn to discern expertly among samples.

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