Have you ever wondered why a plate of food may taste bland when you have a cold or stuffy nose? Or why certain smells can instantly bring you back to a specific memory? The answers lie in the relationship between taste and smell. These two senses work together creating our perception of flavor. “Smell mostly affects taste not from inhaling odors into the nostrils, but from the odors that enter your nasal passages through the back of your mouth.”(Rosenblum, 2010). This type of smell is called retronasal.
Taste and smell are distinct senses, but they are closely linked. Taste, which occurs on the tongue, allows us to detect basic sensations like sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. On the other hand, smell, which takes place in the nose, enables us to identify and differentiate various odors.
When we eat or drink something, molecules from the food are released into the air in our mouth and travel up into our nasal cavity allowing odors to pass across your nasal passage. The olfactory receptors in our nose come into contact with these molecules, sending signals to the brain, which then combines the information from taste and smell to create the perception of flavor.
Photo Link: https://www.brainfacts.org/thinking-sensing-and-behaving/taste/2012/taste-and-smell
References: See What I'm Saying, Rosenblum, 2010