“The Sense of Smell” workshop in Cambridge



Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

21 – 22 July 2015

An informal one-and-a-half day workshop on “The Sense of Smell” in man and other vertebrates.



Day One 

Noon – Registration

1:00pm –  Lunch

2:20pm –  Welcome and Introduction

2.25pm –  Linking physiology to perception in the olfactory system 
chaired by Johan Lundström Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm & Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia

During the last decade, we have witnessed a great leap forward in our understanding of how the olfactory system creates the final odour percept. In this symposium, four speakers will provide overviews of the current knowledge of how each processing step (the sniff, the odor receptors, the olfactory bulb, and the cortex) contributes to our everyday odor experience.

2:30pm – Reading minds through the nose: the sniff as experimental and diagnostic tool
Anat Arzi, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot.

Sniffing, the active process of olfactory information acquisition through sampling of volatile molecules, is an integral part of olfactory perception. Sniffing modulates olfactory perception, and in turn, odor properties such as intensity and pleasantness modulate sniffing. Thus, the sniff offers a unique nonverbal measure of olfactory perception. Specifically, the nonverbal nature of the olfactory sniff response, in which pleasant odors drive stronger sniffs and unpleasant odors drive weaker sniffs, provides an experimental and diagnostic tool. In my talk, I will discuss the interaction between sniffing and smelling and will elaborate on the use of the sniff as an experimental tool for sub-threshold odor detection, and odor processing in the absence of olfactory awareness in health and disease.

3:00pm – The role of a single odorant receptor in human perception
Joel Mainland, Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia

In color vision, genetic variation in a single type of color receptor leads to red-green colorblindness.  Humans also have genetic variation in odorant receptors, suggesting that there may be olfactory phenomena analogous to color blindness. Current models, however, do not predict how the absence of a single odorant receptor will alter olfactory perception.  Taking advantage of the large amount of genetic variation in the human population, we have begun to identify perceptual correlates.  Building on this genetic model, we have also used in vitro screening to identify receptor antagonists, allowing us to reversibly inhibit OR activity and probe the effects on odor perception.  By understanding how variation in a single receptor alters the perceptual code, we hope to build a more comprehensive model of odor coding.

3:30pm – The olfactory bulb and beyond: Cortical contributions to olfaction
Donald Wilson, NYU, New York

The olfactory bulb receives direct input from olfactory sensory neurons in the nose and plays an important role in representing the molecular features of inhaled odors.  Local olfactory bulb circuits enhance contrast between similar features and thus serve to help separate overlapping input patterns to improve discrimination.  Despite these basic sensory functions, olfactory bulb processing is highly dynamic, shaped by both past-experience and current behavioral state. This presentation will review recent work exploring dynamic odor processing in the olfactory bulb.

4:00pm – Tea Break

4:30pm – Cortical mechanisms of odor object formation
Janina Seubert Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm

Our understanding of peripheral and early cortical olfactory processing has benefitted greatly from insights based on analogous systems in non-primates. By contrast, the extensive cortical network subserving olfactory processing in human is unique to our species, and its role in shaping our odor experiences is only beginning to be explored in depth. This presentation will highlight recent advances made in the understanding of higher-order cortical olfactory processing. A particular focus will hereby be placed on adaptive functions of the cortical olfactory network during the integration of olfactory inputs with their larger cognitive, emotional and sensory context.

The Dave Kelly Lecture

5:00pm – Does it matter when the sense of smell is lost?
Thomas Hummel, Smell & Taste Clinic, Dept of ORL, TU Dresden, Germany

Smell loss is frequent. In the general population 5-20 % exhibit complete or partial loss of olfactory function which is especially frequent with aging. However, relatively little is known – even among non-clinical olfactory researchers – about the various causes of olfactory loss, the possibility of spontaneous recovery from smell loss, or specific forms of treatment in relation to the origin of the disorder. The presentation will also focus on the question whether human olfaction is really of importance considering the large number of people without a functioning sense of smell.

Perfumery Presentation

6.00pm – You see-smell it or you don’t, that is the question
Christophe Laudamiel, DreamAir

6:30pm Break

7:30pm Workshop Dinner


Day Two

9:00am – Clinical session
chaired by Carl Phillpott, University of East Anglia, Norwich.

9:05am – Managing parosmia and phantosmia
Antje Welge-Lussen, University Hospital Basel, Switzerland.

9:35am – Coping with a lost sense
Tom Laughton, Fifth Sense.

10:05am – Smell diaries – using memory to manage anosmia
Lisha McLelland, University Hospitals Birmingham

10:35am – Understanding The ‘Gatekeeper’: Disgust
Lorenzo Stafford, University of Portsmouth

Recent theories on the emotion of Disgust propose it can be separated into three different domains (pathogen, sexual, moral), each having a distinct adaptive function.  However, the extent to which moral disgust relates to these other more visceral forms is unclear.  Using a novel olfactory paradigm, we present data that examines this question.

10:45am – Tea Break (Including AGM).

11:15am – Psychology session
chaired by John Behan, University of Kent, Canterbury.

11:20am – Memory reactivation during Sleep by Odors
Julia Rihm, University Medical Centre, Hamburg-Eppendorf and Bjorn Rasch, University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

Memories are consolidated during sleep. One method to examine such sleep- dependent memory consolidation is to tag items during encoding with a background odor. The olfactory cue alone is then re-presented during subsequent sleep. This “targeted memory reactivation” triggers item memory consolidation during sleep. I will present a set of studies where we investigated the effect of olfactory-targeted memory reactivation in different memory domains, and by this means substantiate the causal role of sleep in declarative and emotional memory consolidation.

11:50am – Effect of insulin on the Sense of Smell, Memory and

Jessica Freiherr, Uniklinik RWTH, Aachen, Germany.

The hormone insulin is considered an important key signal between the endocrine system and the brain, especially during the regulation of food consumption. We hypothesize that the anorexigenic effects of insulin are mediated by a modulation of the processing of chemosensory signals. With this set of studies we aim to examine the effects of an increased cerebrospinal insulin level on chemosensory perception as well as memory processes. Our results provide innovative insights into the interaction of cerebrospinal insulin with the chemosensory systems. Conclusions on the fundamental mechanisms of insulin effects on food consumption and the mediation of satiety in healthy subjects can be drawn.

12:20pm – Effect of fragrance use on discrimination of individual body odor
Caroline Allen, University of Stirling

Research suggests that rather than masking individuals’ odour, preferred fragrances may actually complement, and potentially enhance, idiosyncratic differences in human body odour. Based on this assumption it can be predicted that discrimination of odours would be improved when odours were paired with a fragrance of choice as opposed to an allocated fragrance, and the current study aimed to test this hypothesis.

12:30am – ABCC11 – The key human anti-odor target
Dorothea Schweiger and Julia Gallinger, Beiersdorf AG, Hamburg, Germany.

The axillary odor of humans is the result of bacterial action on odor precursor molecules that are secreted by apocrine sweat glands. In many Asians, which only exhibit a faint acidic odor, the apical efflux pump ABCC11 is nonfunctional. ABCC11 transports the precursor molecule of the odorous 3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexanol (3M3SH). Therefore, ABCC11 plays a key role in the formation of body odor and provides an interesting target for the development of deodorants.

1:00pm – Lunch

2:00am – Mammalian Semiochemistry Session
chaired by Darren Logan, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge.

2:05pm – Exploiting human odours for the control of biting insects
James Logan – London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

2:35pm – Aquatic olfaction
Sigrun Korsching – University of Cologne, Germany.

3:05pm – Odor blockade of innate aversion
Luis Saraiva, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute & EMBL-EBI

Closing remarks and end of meeting

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