How Do We Smell?

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It’s the first day of Spring! Take a deep breath. What do you smell? At that moment, millions of molecules are rushing into your nose and caressing the nerve endings of your brain’s olfactory bulb. But how does your brain know what smell to assign each molecule? How many smells can the brain handle? Smell researcher and neuroscientist Leslie Vosshall explains how molecules drifting through the air become the aromatic world around us. Okay, now exhale.

More videos from this series: Scents and Sensibilities

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Date: Saturday June 4, 2011
Time: 03:00 PM-04:30 PM
Venue: Tishman Auditorium at The New School
Moderator: Juju Chang
Participants: Leslie Vosshall, Sissel Tolaas, Consuelo De Moraes, Avery Gilbert

What does fear smell like? Love? Can we use scent to control behavior? Do humans really sense pheromones? What if you could diagnose diseases just by smelling them? And exactly how does our brain convert floating organic molecules into chemical signals that our brain processes as odor? Over hundreds of thousands of years, our ancestors learned to encode specific scents with information that saved their lives. Many species still depend heavily on smell for their daily survival. Described as "the most direct pathway to the brain," olfaction...[Read more]