What are phantom smells?


Phantom smells are odors that a person smells that are not actually there. The smells vary from person to person but are usually unpleasant, such as the smell of something burning.


That's [phantom smells] been documented, and certainly something I hear from my patients, that you know, at times, they might have a smell that they know isn't really there as a premonitory, or maybe as an aura symptom. So yes, oftentimes you'll hear things, like maybe like a burning smell, or a rubber type of smell.

I don't really think we understand exactly why that's occurring yet, but I would theorize that it is related to what we've been talking about, which is really just, you know, a hypersensitivity of the ability to sense those odors, which we might otherwise just kind of filter out, if you will, and maybe wouldn't notice so well.”


It is not quite understood why phantom smells occur in those with migraine, but it is likely associated with the hypersensitivity of the migraine brain.

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Todd Schwedt, MD

Professor of Neurology
Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Arizona

As a Professor of Neurology the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Arizona, Dr. Todd Schwedt has seen thousands of migraine patients and evaluated a large number of scans of our hypersensitive brains. His research using advanced MRI techniques has been widely published. He serves on the Board of Directors of the American Headache Society, is the Vice Chairman of the Headache and Facial Pain section of the American Academy of Neurology, is a member of the International Headache Society Classification Committee, and is an Associate editor of Headache, Cephalalgia and Pain Medicine journals.