Sommelier Students Display Superior Abilities to Identify but Not to Detect or Discriminate Odors Early in their Training
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Experts acquire superior abilities in their specific domains by training. Sommelier students, who are future olfaction experts, could be an excellent model to study the effects of olfactory training.
We tested whether sommelier students display superior olfactory abilities early in their education: within the first 2 months of education, we examined the olfactory function, i.e., discrimination and identification of odors as well as olfactory threshold and olfactory memory, of n = 25 sommelier students and compared them to n = 29 control students. We also tested episodic and working memory.
We found that sommelier students outperformed controls in free and cued identification, but we did not observe any difference in discrimination or threshold tasks. There was also no difference in memory tasks.
Early in their education, sommelier students appear to be better at identifying odors, but do not display other superior olfactory abilities.
Results suggest that sommeliers are better at identifying odors than the average person, either because they enter into training with superior identifications skills or are able to learn to identify odors at a very fast rate.
KeywordsOlfaction Expertise Sommeliers Training Memory
We would like to thank M. Daniel Vintrou for kindly enabling us to contact sommelier students from the Centre de Formation Professionnelle Bel-Avenir in Trois-Rivieres. This study was funded by the UQTR Research Chair in Chemosensory Neuroanatomy, the Fonds de Recherche du Québec-Santé and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (JF).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières, Canada.
All participants gave informed written consent to participate.
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