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Scents and Sensibilities: The Invisible Language of Smell

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 is subconscious, pre-cognitive, and emotional. Juju Chang hosts a discussion with Leslie Vosshall, Consuelo De Moraes, Sissel Tolaas, and Avery Gilbert for a “scent interactive” panel about the fascinating science of smell and how it offers a powerful window into our brains, behaviors, emotions, and communication.

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Scents and Sensibilities: The Invisible Language of Smell

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 is subconscious, pre-cognitive, and emotional. Juju Chang hosts a discussion with Leslie Vosshall, Consuelo De Moraes, Sissel Tolaas, and Avery Gilbert for a “scent interactive” panel about the fascinating science of smell and how it offers a powerful window into our brains, behaviors, emotions, and communication.

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Moderator

Juju ChangABC News Correspondent

Emmy Award-winning Juju Chang is a co-anchor for ABC News. During her career at ABC News, she has been news anchor for Good Morning America, contributed to 20/20, reported for World News Tonight, and anchored the early morning newscasts of World News Now and World News This Morning.

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Participants

Avery GilbertScent Psychologist, Author

Smell scientist, entrepreneur, and author Avery N. Gilbert is a fragrance industry innovator and pioneer in the areas of olfactory mental imagery, multisensory correlates of odor perception, and the psychological factors that bias odor judgments.

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Sissel TolaasScent Researcher, Artist

Sissel Tolaas’s work focuses on smell, language, and communication while spanning science, art, and industry. She has identified the smell molecules in worn coats and covered the walls of an MIT gallery with chemically reproduced molecules from the sweat of men who suffer fear attacks.

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Leslie VosshallNeuroscientist

Leslie Vosshall is a molecular neurobiologist who studies how behaviors emerge from the integration of sensory input with internal physiological states. She is the Robin Chemers Neustein Professor, Head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior, and Director of the Kavli Neural Systems Institute at The Rockefeller University.

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Consuelo De MoraesChemical Ecologist

Consuelo De Moraes is an internationally known biologist and ecologist who studies the complex role of chemistry in interactions among plants and other organisms.

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