Only noses know

You probably don't give your nose much thought, unless you have a cold and it's stuffy. Noses can be the butt of jokes and are rarely taken seriously as a topic of study. But the nose and its sense of smell, its role in beauty and sensuality, and its relationship to mental health should not be underestimated.

Humans - from Cleopatra to Michael Jackson - have long been obsessed with the size and shape of their noses. It is a fact that the nose is one of the features we often want to change, and it's relatively easy to do.

Plastic surgery performed on the nose is called rhino-plasty. A surgeon can reduce or increase the size of a nose, or change the shape of the tip or the bridge. Other types of nose surgery may be performed to correct an injury or a birth defect, or help relieve breathing problems.

The nostrils are separated by a small wall called the septum. The septum is made of cartilage, a sift, rubbery tissue that gives it its shape, The nostrils are lined with stiff hairs, which keep the dust and dirt from being breathed into the lungs.

Mucous membranes in the inner nasal cavity secrete a thick mucus, which also helps trap dirt. A cold, allergies or other irritations caused by breathing in pollutants can cause inflammation of the mucous membranes, which is called rhinitis. Antihistamines are commonly used to treat rhinitis caused by allergies

Picking through it

Now, we all know how one goes about picking one's nose, so we can skip the step-by-step instructions. Compulsive nose-picking is referred to as rhinotillexomania.

Recent research suggests that children's habit of picking their nose makes a positive contribution to the development of their immune system. Well, yuck all the same.

In order for you to smell something, molecules from the thing you're smelling have to enter your nose. Everything you smell gives off molecules that stimulate sensory nerve cells (neurons) in the olfactory bulb called receptors, which send electrical impulses to the brain.

As we age, our sense of smell deteriorates and this impacts on our sense of taste. Consequently, foods seem to lose their flavour. Imagine what it would be like to walk into a coffee shop or a bakery and not be able to appreciate the aroma.

Smell affects many aspects of life, including sexual attraction, memory and emotion. When the brain stores information that is linked to a smell, coming into contact with that smell at a later date will bring back memories of everything the brain associates with that smell. This is called the 'Proust effect'.

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