LAS VEGAS (CBS) – Have you ever wondered why wine experts can smell and taste ingredients the rest of us can’t?
Researchers in Las Vegas set out to see if they could answer that question. What they found could lead to a breakthrough for Alzheimer’s disease.
Harley Carbery has developed an almost super human sense of smell over the years.
“Identifying the different aromatic or flavor nuances in it… is it a fruit, is it not a fruit?” Carbery, the director of wine at the Mandalay Bay Resort, said.
As a wine connoisseur or sommelier, he says he can detect almost any ingredient in a glass of wine. Research shows that keen sense of smell has developed his brain.
“There’s just a lot more activity there,” said Dr. Sarah Banks.
Dr. Banks did brain scans on 13 sommeliers and 13 “non-experts” as they smelled various scents of wines and fruits. She found the wine experts could detect scents the others could not. But she also discovered parts of their brain are bigger, including areas susceptible to Alzheimer’s.
“The fact that the parts of the brain that are bigger are those parts that are most vulnerable to diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s bodes pretty well for the sommeliers,” said Dr. Banks, who works for the Cleveland Clinic Center for Brain Health. “It suggests that they might have some degree of protection.”
Dr. Banks says developing our sense of smell with wine or anything else might be key in growing our brains to help prevent disease.
“Definitely, sort of stopping to smell the roses a little bit, to enjoy life to think about your sensory experiences,” Banks said.
Carbery says he’ll toast to that.