Study. How to manipulate your brain to recover its smell due to the virus

Study. Many people have similar experiences when they are infected with the new virus. But the recovery of smell and taste can take from a few days to months or they can even stay with a weaker smell all the time.

Study. How to manipulate your brain to recover its smell due to the virus

Chris Rogers is the best example for this category of people. Tired of waiting for his olfactory system to recover naturally, Rogers sought an olfactory training therapy recommended by his doctor.

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Post-Covid olfactory therapy-19

Twice a day for 10 weeks, Rogers sniffed four types of essential oils — rose, lemon, eucalyptus, and cloves. to activate or potentially enhance the survival of newly formed odor-detecting cells.

For the nose, it has been used for the past decade to help restore the sense of smell lost to other viral infections, such as the common cold or flu, brain damage, and aging.

Although scientists have seen improvements in the ability of some people to smell, usually after three to six months of such training.

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It has been difficult to demonstrate how much of this improvement comes from the therapy itself versus the natural recovery that occurs over time, says Eric Holbrook, a rhinologist. National Geographic.

Study. How to manipulate your brain

However, he continues to recommend therapy to many patients, including those who have lost their sense of smell due to the virus, as he says that such a sniff of smell could improve or speed up the healing process.

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It is also one of the very few and often the only therapeutic options available to millions of people who have failed to regain their sense of smell for months after a COVID-19 infection.

Although the benefits of olfactory training can vary considerably depending on the patient, depending on their starting point, “Generally not considered harmful”says Bradley Goldstein, a specialist

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Temperate expectations

“We recommended it with somewhat temperate expectations, but we still have to find specific, more effective drug therapies. It really is an unmet need. “

The origins of odor training

Nearly two decades ago, scientists began documenting the prevalence of odor disorders among large populations.

Turning to the scientific literature, Thomas Hummel, an expert at the Smell and Taste Clinic of the University of Dresden School of Medicine in Germany, realized that such a loss of smell – either temporary or permanent.

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Among the patients who visited his own clinic, he saw on the spot how much their emotional well-being and quality of life affected them. Some showed signs of depression; others lost weight due to loss of appetite and subsequent malnutrition.

Hummel was determined to help his patients regain their sense of smell. He knew that the olfactory system has a unique ability to continually regenerate throughout human life in response to an injury, such as a head injury, or after suffering a loss of odor due to a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. .

And the experiments showed that people who were not able to smell certain smells could learn to perceive them after repeated exposures to that smell. He thought that using such an approach could help his patients.

People recovered in 25% and 70%

Since then, several studies have explored the therapeutic benefits of this technique, often noticing improvements that are, on average, small. In some cases, the improvement may be 25 percent, and in others it is rather 70 percent, says Hummel.

“People with post-infection odor loss for a short period of time will be more likely to recover. Than those who lost their sense of smell for the same reason. But they didn’t smell anything for two years and then they came to our clinic, “he says.

Adding a few extra scents to your sniffing routine can also increase the benefits.

Research continues

While scientists are still working out the ideal duration of olfactory training therapy and what odor concentrations are most effective, Patel points out that the way to quantify these benefits is still very rudimentary.

Currently, to measure how well the therapy has worked, doctors calculate a score before and after olfactory training, presenting patients with 40 odors through odor pens or scratch and odor tests.

The patient must then choose the correct smell from the four options. “These are so subjective and it’s not a really objective measure.”says Zara Patel, head and neck surgeon and odor loss expert at Stanford University.

Also, depending on where people grew up and their cultural background, not everyone can be familiar with each of the 40 smells, she says.

It remains unclear how this olfactory training brings improvements in several studies.

But scientists have hypotheses. Based on the knowledge gained from rodent studies, Hummel. For example, he believes that exposing people with olfactory deficits to odors could accelerate the regeneration of odor-detecting cells.

Goldstein suggests that olfactory training could improve the survival and functioning of new cells, giving them a chance to connect to the brain and ultimately restore odor loss.

Olfactory training

As the pandemic unfolded, the demand for olfactory training therapy increased as millions of people who could be affected by COVID-19 had odor problems.

“Smell loss and odor distortion have become much more widely discussed and known as a problem,” says Patel.

“It simply came to our notice then [și] most doctors had never heard of her. “

Unlike other viruses that can cause odor loss by directly infecting the cells involved in odor detection, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spares them.

Instead, the coronavirus infects surrounding support cells, which have the ACE2 receptor that SARS-CoV-2 needs to infect human host cells.

To protect the body against the virus, immune cells rush to this site of infection and generate antiviral proteins that, according to a 2022 study.

They can decrease the activity of the genes needed to build odor receptors on these odor-detecting neurons, which in turn leads to odor loss.

How many patients regained their sense of smell without treatment?

About 80 percent of COVID-19 patients who lost their sense of smell regained it without any treatment within one to four weeks. 95 percent recovered within six months.

“It’s very difficult for people who haven’t lost their sense of smell to understand the impact this has on the people they happen to,” says Patel.

“It’s this invisible thing that has no outside effect and therefore people don’t really understand how important it is to them.”

Some studies are beginning to suggest that olfactory training may be beneficial for COVID-19 patients who have had odor loss for more than six weeks.

Rogers, who has been in therapy for 10 weeks, began to notice improvements in the sixth week.

“The taste and smell started to get stronger,” he says.

Now, at least five months after the olfactory training ended, “I’m probably 75 percent of the level I was before,” he says.

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