Research, Technology

How to train your brain to smell after COVID-19

One of the characteristic symptoms of COVID 19 isloss of smell. As a rule, the ability to smell smells returns several weeks after the onset of the symptom, or even after a few days. However, in some patients, the sense of smell does not return at all. But this does not mean that in this case you will have to forget about smells and taste forever. In such cases, doctors use a special therapy to train the brain to smell, which was developed 20 years ago. In the past decade, it has been used to help restore the sense of smell lost due to other viral infections such as the common cold or the flu, or as a result of traumatic brain injury. Next, let's look at what this therapy is, how it works, and how effective it is in general.

Special therapy helps to restore the sense of smell after coronavirus

Restoration of smell after coronavirus

About two decades ago, scientists begandocument olfactory disorders in large populations. As it turned out, temporary or permanent occurs much more often than previously thought. However, there was no way to solve this problem.

Lack of smell is not so scarya symptom, like a change in a person's personality, however, it significantly affects the quality of life, and even sometimes leads to depression. Thomas Hummel, an expert in this field at the Clinic for Smell and Taste at the Dresden Medical School in Germany, knew that the olfactory system has a unique ability to continuously regenerate itself throughout a person's life.

To restore the sense of smell, scientists recommend sniffing essential oils

Moreover, experiments have shown that peoplecapable of sensing certain odors may learn to perceive them after repeated exposure to the odor. To test this hypothesis, the scientist and his colleagues conducted an experiment in which 40 patients took part. The researchers asked them to inhale four scents of essential oils - rose, lemon, eucalyptus and clove. Volunteers sniffed the oils for 10 seconds twice a day. The experiment lasted 12 weeks.

To evaluate the effectiveness of therapy, the teamThe researchers asked the participants in the experiment to identify some odors before and after the therapy. As a result, the authors found that about 30% of participants actually improved their sense of smell.

Since then, numerous studies have been carried outby other scientists. As a rule, improvements were noted, but they were not great - in some cases, the sense of smell was restored by 25%, in others - by 70%. As Thomas Hummel himself says, effectiveness may depend on age, as well as on how serious the problems were and how long the ability to smell was absent.

Smell training may help regenerate receptors

How exercise helps restore your sense of smell

Until the end of the mechanism that leads to improvementssense of smell as a result of therapy, scientists are not clear. However, there are some hypotheses in this regard. For example, Thomas Hummel believes that exposing people with a smell deficiency to odors can speed up the regeneration of odor-determining cells.

Other scholars suggest what learning issmell can improve the survival and function of new odor-detecting cells. The therapy stimulates them, which gives them the opportunity to connect with the brain and eventually restore their loss of smell.

Patients begin to smell after 3-6 weeks of therapy

Smell Therapy for COVID-19

Unlike some other viruses, whichaffect the cells responsible for detecting odors, SARS-CoV-2 spares them. Instead, the coronavirus infects surrounding “support” cells that have the ACE2 receptor. The latter is known to be required by SARS-CoV-2 to infect the cell.

To protect the body from the virus, immunecells rush to the site of infection and generate antiviral proteins, which, according to one study, can reduce the activity of genes responsible for odor receptors.

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However, approximately 80% of patients with COVID-19lost their sense of smell, restored it without any treatment. Within six months, the sense of smell returns to 95% of patients. Smell training may be beneficial for COVID-19 survivors who have lost their sense of smell for more than six weeks, experts say.

As patients note, they begin to noticeimprovement at the sixth week of therapy. Therefore, at present, learning to smell, despite the lack of guarantees, is considered the most effective, accessible, inexpensive and generally safe way to solve the problem. Finally, we recall that scientists associate the loss of smell with COVID-19 is associated not only with gene suppression, but also with brain damage. Moreover, not only the ability to distinguish smells, but also mental abilities suffer from this.