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Scents and Sensibilities: The Invisible Language of Smell

Date & Time

Saturday, June 4, 2011
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
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Tishman Auditorium at The New School

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. We were joined by neuroscientists, chemists, artists, and radical scent designers for a “scent interactive” discussion about the fascinating science of smell and how it offers a powerful window into our brains, behaviors, emotions, and communication.

On the Blog: “Smell is a secret language, a coded vernacular whispering subtle cues”

Limited number of WSF Supporter tickets still available here. Additional general admission tickets may become available at the door an hour before the program.


  • Juju Chang

    Emmy Award-winning Juju Chang is a correspondent for Nightline on 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. More »


  • Leslie Vosshall

    Neuroscientist, Olfactory Scientist Leslie B. Vosshall is a renowned neuroscientist seeking to understand how behaviors emerge from the integration of sensory input with internal physiological states. More »
  • Sissel Tolaas

    Scent Researcher, Artist As a professional "in-betweener," 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. Tolaas’s projects combine aspects of the academic, the offensive, and the surreal. More »
  • Consuelo De Moraes

    Chemical 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. She is particularly interested in understanding how olfactory cues emitted by plants convey sophisticated information about plant identity and condition. More »
  • Avery Gilbert

    Scent 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. More »