Arguably, a person’s sense of smell is one of the most important he or she can have; not only does a strong scent make for stronger memories, but a fully-functional nose helps with taste as well. Granted it’s impossible to see with smell, but it’s possible to see things from it — which may happen to include impending mortality.
Experiments conducted at the Salk Institute with worms have shed some light on what smell means for the body. In the worms’ case, the researchers expected two dozen neurons related to scent to activate when tasked with moving toward a pleasant-smelling chemical; to their surprise, several more neurons activated in tandem, which likely meant that the worms wanted to — and could — gain more detailed information about the chemical.
The implication here is that the neurons behind smell are vital for determining the health and youth of an organism, worm or otherwise. If the neurons have degraded over time, then it’s a sign of age or even imminent death. By the same token, manipulating those neurons can mean slowing down the aging process, or at the very least giving the brain a helping hand. Hopefully some real good can come from this study; humans care a lot more about scents than worms, after all.