Paper on Empathy and Smell Recognition accepted


Our paper entitled “Emotional Correlates of Monorhinal Odor Identification” has been accepted in Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition. It is a collaborative project with Psychology at Kent and East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust.

The abstract of the paper:

It is self-evident that smell profoundly shapes emotion, but less clear is how these capacities are linked. Here we sought to determine whether the ability to identify odors co-varies with self-reported feelings of empathy and emotional expression recognition, as predicted if the two capacities draw on common resource. Thirty eight normal volunteers were administered the Alberta Smell Test along with the Interpersonal Reactivity Index which provides a measure of emotional and cognitive empathy, and an emotional expression recognition task in which faces had to be categorised as happy, sad, angry fearful or neutral. Of secondary interest, we also tested whether odor identification correlates with more general aspects of intellectual function, as measured by the verbal and non-verbal scales of the 2nd Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test. Statistical analyses indicated that feelings of emotional empathy positively correlated with odor discrimination in right nostril, while the recognition of happy facial expressions positively correlated with odor discrimination in left nostril. Higher identification scores in left nostril were also associated with higher verbal IQ scores. These results uncover new links between the discriminatory ability of the olfactory system and emotion and verbal intelligence which, given the ipsilateral configuration of the olfactory projections, may reflect intra- rather than inter-hemispheric interactions. Given that reduced empathic concern and a difficulty distinguishing facial emotions can mark the onset of certain neurological diseases, the results give reason to further explore the diagnostic sensitivity of smell tests.


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