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The science of smell

Delve deeper into the how and why of smell with our selection of the scientific realm. Who knows what you'll find?


“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived. The odours of fruits waft me to my southern home, to my childhood frolics in the peach orchard. Other odours, instantaneous and fleeting, cause my heart to dilate joyously or contract with remembered grief. Even as I think of smells, my nose is full of scents that start awake sweet memories of summers gone and ripening fields far away.”

Helen Keller 1880-1968
An American author, political activist, and lecturer She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree.

The psychology of smelling

Most of us have at least one memory which is triggered by smell. The effect was famously highlighted by Marcel Proust in his novel 'Á la recherche du temps perdu' (Remembrance of things past) where the scent and taste of a madeleine brings back memories of his aunt. Psychologists continue to be entranced by how smell affects us - and how we smell affects others. Drawing on many different experiences, new theories emerge regularly. You can find out more in this reading list.

How we smell: from nose to brain

This poster will give you more information on how we smell.


BBC News : Parkinson's skin-swab test 'in sight’

How your sense of smell predicts your overall health BBC Future 

Covid-19 loss of taste and smell: how is it affecting sufferers?


Follow Your Nose: The Amazing Science of Smell


The Sense of Smell in Humans is More Powerful Than We Think. Discovery Magazine  

New Book Aims to Help People Who Have Lost Their Sense of Smell and Taste Due to COVID


The Uncommon Senses: Smell, Emotion and Memory. Barry Smith explores why smell unlocks the door to vivid memories and emotions 

Understanding Sensory Processing and Integration in Children: For Parents and Carers

Sensory Integration Education has made a free short course available ‘Understanding Sensory Processing and Integration in Children: For Parents and Carers’. They hope more people will become aware of sensory integration and processing challenges and learn how even small purposeful changes can make the world a more sensory friendly place.

Making Sense of Scents: Smell and the Brain

When a smell evokes a memory: new research offers clues about how the two are linked in the brain

Secret Workings of Smell Receptors Revealed for First Time

New study suggests fragrance’s essentiality

Unpicking the link between smell and memories

Flavor Sensing in Utero and Emerging Discriminative Behaviors in the Human Fetus

Beauty and the brain: ‘Multisensory experiences are happening all the time’, says Professor Charles Spence

Are Candles Bad For You And Can They Harm Your Health?

Google AI can tell what things smell like by the molecular structure

Transgenic ants shed light on insects’ sense of smell - A Nature article highlights research which reveals how the insects’ brains process smells. 


The Monell Chemical Senses Center

Not-for-profit research institute in West Philadelphia. Their research programs include studies on taste, smell, and sensory perception, as well as research to understand human health, development and behaviour.



Centre for the Study of the Senses (CenSes)

Hosted by the Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study, University of London. They conduct sensory research to understand how the different senses contribute to our perception of the environment, and awareness of ourselves. International Scientific Board comprising philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists. Contact: Prof. Barry Smith.



The Weizmann Institute of Science
Prof. Noam Sobel, of the Department of Neurobiology, Israel, is a leading authority on how olfaction affects human behaviour and health. They have developed SmellTracker, an online tool that enables self-monitoring your sense of smell to early diagnosis of COVID-19


The Rockefeller University
Since 2004, they have been carrying out a number of smell studies. Contact: Leslie Vosshall (

European Chemoreception Research Organisation

The European Chemoreception Research Organization (ECRO) promotes fundamental and applied research in chemosensory science especially olfaction and taste in vertebrates and invertebrates.

RIFM - Research Institute for Fragrance Materials. 

Read a Q&A with RIFM's President, James C. Romine, PhD, about the organisation's commitment to transparency.

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