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How do you smell and taste things?

A girl smelling a flowerSmells are tiny particles that flake off things and find their way up your nose. The nose contains nerve cells that enable you to detect them. Tastes are picked up by nerve cells on your tongue. Smell particles from the food you are eating drift up from the back of your throat to your nose. In this way, your nose helps you taste things as well.

Cross-section through the head, showing the nasal cavity.


Behind each nostril is an air passage, called the nasal cavity. This is about the size of your thumb. When nerve cells in the roof of the nasal cavity detect smell particles, they send messages along nerves to the brain. Sniffing draws extra air into the nasal cavity, making your sense of smell stronger. 

Inside the nose

There are 25 million smell sensors in the roof of the nasal cavity.

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