Early Smell Exposure May Be Critical for Sensory Development

Originally published in Bench to Bedside, the CHOP Research monthly publication.

I composed this original article based on interviews with the investigators.


Many parents try to offer their healthy babies a rich sensory environment, full of new sights, sounds, smells, and tastes, to stimulate the developing brain to appreciate life’s delicious complexities to the fullest. And for vision and hearing, there is a solid foundation of research showing that there is a critical period early in life when adequate stimulation of those senses is essential for their healthy development.

Now, a pilot study conducted at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology provides some of the first-ever evidence for a critical period in developing the sense of smell, or olfaction, too. The findings have particular implications for rehabilitating young patients, including severely premature infants, who receive lifesaving medical interventions that temporarily prevent airflow through the nasal passages during this potentially critical period.

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