Why Do Women Have A Better Sense of Smell?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Prof. Roberto Lent

Diretor, Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas
Centro de Ciências da Saúde, Bloco K, sala 2-35
Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Prof. Lent: Our group has been studying the absolute numbers of cells in the human brain, using a novel technique that we have developed. We have done it for
the whole male brain, and arrived at a figure of 86 billion neurons and 85
billion glial cells, 15% less than the round number that became a neuromyth
(one hundred billion neurons). We did it also for the demented brain, in
this case working with females, and showed that it is dementia that is
associated with a loss of neurons, because people with alzheimer, but no
dementia, displayed normal numbers of neurons.

The present paper focuses on sexual dimorphism in the olfactory bulb, and
revealed that women have around 40% more neurons and glial cells than men,
what correlates with their superior performance in many olfactory

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Prof. Lent: In this work, we have only employed brains of healthy people, so at this
point there is nothing to say about diseases, yet. However, the olfactory
bulb, our target in this paper, is inflicted by Alzheimer‘s pathology, so
our next step will be to explore how the disease alters the cell
composition of this structure.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Prof. Lent: One of the issues that interests us very much is sexual dimorphism, that
is, the differences in brain morphology and human behavior and cognition
determined by sex. We plan to explore other regions of the brain for this
purpose. This effort will give us a quantitative scenario concerning the
main processing units in the brain, that could be related to the
psychological and psychiatric differences between the sexes.


Ana V. Oliveira-Pinto, Raquel M. Santos, Renan A. Coutinho, Lays M. Oliveira, Gláucia B. Santos, Ana T. L. Alho, Renata E. P. Leite, José M. Farfel, Claudia K. Suemoto, Lea T. Grinberg, Carlos A. Pasqualucci, Wilson Jacob-Filho, Roberto Lent
Published: November 05, 2014 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0111733