Stress Can Rewire Brain and Make Things Stink

September 25, 2013 | Kyle Chayka

According to a new study in the Journal of Neuroscience, when a selection of human test subjects were exposed to a series of disturbing images such as car crashes and war, the smells of seemingly benign objects were subsequently interpreted as “malodorous.”

We encounter anxiety and as a result we experience the world more negatively. The environment smells bad in the context of anxiety. It can become a vicious cycle, making one more susceptible to a clinical state of anxiety as the effects accumulate. It can potentially lead to a higher level of emotional disturbances with rising ambient sensory stress.

Humans typically process odors using the olfactory system. However, due to these recent developments it has become apparent that when we are under the influence of stress and anxiety our emotions can skew our sense of smell toward being inherently negative. That stinks.