There are only two ways to proceed once you arrive at a gas station. Gasp the air as if you were in the middle of a garden full of roses, or try to breathe just enough to survive without holding your breath. smell of gasoline. It is a reality that what is a wonderful aroma to many is a disgusting stench to others. In this case there are only white or black, no gray. But why do some people love the smell of gasoline while others hate it?

Surely you have asked yourself this question at some point, no matter what group you are from. And the truth is that scientists have done it too. Essentially, they wondered how it could be that a smell was associated with something so toxic may be attractive to some people. At the moment there is no definite answer, but there is there are two hypotheses O.

The first ones point to nostalgia. For reasons we’ll see in a moment, the smell of gasoline may have unconsciously brought back many pleasant memories. Instead, the second hypothesis concerns something much more intuitive: the addictive power of one of the gasoline ingredients. It’s about benzene and causes certain reactions in the brain that we also experience when consuming tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, chocolate or sex. Some are more dangerous than others, but they all operate on a principle known as reward systems.

Nostalgia for the smell of gasoline

In 1913 Marcel Proust public In search of lost timethe first volume of his work Along Svan’s path. At the very beginning of the book, its main character prepares cake, just for the pleasure of trying them. However, when he dips them into a cup of tea, the resulting aroma reveals childhood memories so strong that the author spends more than 3000 pages describing it.

That’s why it’s known as “Proust, Madeleine” to the phenomenon due to which smell This is the meaning that our most vivid memories. In addition to literature, there is a scientific explanation for this. And smell is the only sense that does not pass through the thalamus. This structure is a kind of control zonewhere information from the senses undergoes first analysis before entering the brain and being converted into sensations that we perceive.

Information from the eyes, tongue, ears or skin reaches the thalamus, but not from the nose, since the sense of smell has a direct connection to the brain. This occurs through a set of nerves known as olfactory bulbwhich is particularly concentrated in regions near the amygdala and hippocampus, two regions involved in both regulating emotions and recording memories.

As a result, smell very often triggers memories. More than any other feeling. Sometimes memories that We didn’t even know what we had.

And this is what, according to some scientists, can happen to us due to the smell of gasoline. If we have wonderful childhood memories, where our parents stopped for gas on the way to the beach, or we played in the garage while they worked on the car, it’s possible that we unlocked these memories almost without realizing it. We just feel good.

The smell of gasoline can bring back memories of childhood car rides. Credit: Alexander Gray (Unsplash)

Benzene addiction

On the other hand, there is addictive part of the smell of gasoline. It consists of many ingredients, but the one that interests us most in this case is benzene. This is a hydrocarbon that is added to gasoline to give it more octane number. That is, the combustion process is optimized in this way, since the engine cylinder can be compressed more strongly without premature detonation.

Benzene is a mixture pungent but almost sweet smell, which used to be added to aftershave and shower products. It was the perfect perfume. Unfortunately, it later turned out that this highly carcinogenic, therefore its use in products of this type was prohibited. It is very volatile, which is what we usually smell from gasoline. And yes, we inhale it too, but it’s not dangerous, especially if only when refueling.

Although it has been used in perfumery on its own, the truth is that the smell of gasoline is not the most pleasant smell in the world. But benzene has one more quality that explains everything. And when it evaporates and we inhale it, it acts on brain reward systems. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for releasing large amounts of dopamine for certain incentives. This is a hormone that produces great feelings of pleasure, so we will want to repeat these stimuli. And this is what is sought evolutionarily. For example, sex activates reward systems. We feel pleasure, want to do it again and contribute to the preservation of the human race. This also happens with high-calorie foods such as chocolate. This way we get energy to keep our body active.

The problem is that there are substances that they don’t do any good, like cocaine, which also act on reward systems. Any stimulus that releases dopamine can be addictive because if it is repeated over and over again, we can become resistant to dopamine and need it more and more. Not all people are equally sensitive. Some are more likely to develop addiction than others. And the same thing can happen with the smell of gasoline.

Benzene is known to affect the reward system, but not everyone is equally sensitive. The release of dopamine is no longer the same. And this, along with the fact that we may not have pleasant memories associated with the fuel, may be the reason why some people don’t like the smell. This is the key to whether we are in black or white, but we never put ourselves in a gray scale.

Source: Hiper Textual

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