CORA

 

The Centre for Olfactory Research and Applications, or CORA, is hosted by the Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study, University of London.

CORA brings together neurobiologists, sensory scientists, chemists, clinicians, patient advocates, philosophers and perfumers to carry our collaborative research on the nature of olfaction, from a theoretical and empirical point of view, and to pursue innovative applications of that research in clinical and creative settings. The aim of CORA is to bring together experts with different perspectives who can share knowledge that will advance our understanding of the sense of smell: its function in everyday life, its role in conscious experience, its contribution to perceiving flavours, its relation to mood and memory and the consequences of smell loss or dysfunction. Our research interests span everything from the chemistry of volatile molecules, the receptors they activate, the brain regions they project to, the responses they give rise to in us to the conscious perceptions and evaluations of aromas they elicit. We aim to connect the researchers who study these topics to the practitioners who make fragrances and flavours and to make the share the result of our work with patients, the wider public and the creative, food, and other industries.

Although neglected until fairly recently both in the life sciences and in everyday life, there is now a growing awareness of the importance of smell to our health and well-being, our enjoyment of food, our recognition of people, places and things, our attraction to others, our memories of the past, arousal and emotions, its interaction with other senses and our perception of the environment. Research is casting more light on this most ancient of senses, and yet there is still much we do not know. Unlike colours or sounds there are no basic odour categories. How much do we know about the odours we perceive and how do we perceive them? Most odours we perceive are mixtures but how do odours combine to create perceived unity in the scents of coffee or the sea but not in other mixtures? How much chemical signalling is there between people? Can smells influence our behaviour without us knowing it? What does smell contribute to our experience of familiar buildings? Do we all smell the same things? Why don’t we smell our own homes when other people’s homes have a smell? And what is lost from our experience when we lose our sense of smell, and can we recover it? These and other questions will be the focus of seminars, workshops and discussions, while clinical considerations and artistic projects will also occupy the work of CORA and its members

 

People

Director of CORA

Barry C Smith
Sensory Philosopher

Barry Smith is a professor of Philosophy and director of the Institute of Philosophy at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study. He is also the founding director of the Centre for the Study of Senses which brings together philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists. His current research is on the multisensory nature of perceptual experience, focusing on taste, smell and flavour, and he frequently collaborates with the food and drink industry. In 2007 he edited Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine with oxford University Press. More recently he also wrote and presented a 10-part series for BBC Radio 4 called ‘The Uncommon Senses.’ Professor Smith is currently the UK lead for the Global Consortium of Chemosensory Research which brings together ENT practitioners, sensory scientists and patients with aims of understanding the links between COVID-19 and the loss of smell.  Barry's research profile.

 

CORA Fellows

Ann-Sophie Barwich
Sensory Philosopher

Ann-Sophie Barwich is an Assistant Professor in Indiana University’s Department of History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine and the Cognitive Science Program. Previously she was a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience at The Center for Science & Society, Columbia University (2015-2018). Her research centers on the conceptual foundations of neuroscience and theories of perception. She explores how our understanding of mind and brain would be different when considering the sense of smell. Most recently, she has published Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind with Harvard University Press. It is a pioneering exploration of olfaction that upsets settled notions of how the brain translates sensory information. More informatino on Ann-Sophie

 

Clare Batty
Sensory Philosopher

Clare Batty is an Associate Professor at the University of Kentucky and is also affiliated with the Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience, University of Glasgow and the Network for Sensory Research. She works primarily on the philosophy of the mind and philosophy of perception. Her current research focuses on olfactory experience. More information on Clare

 

John Behan
Chemist and Perfumer

John Behan has spent his career leading perfume research, first with Unilever, then ICI, and finally with the world-leading perfume house, Givaudan.  As a Director of Research in Unilever he led teams developing new perfume technologies, for example, for perfume design and performance, Deodorancy, Mood, and encapsulation. He was a member of the ICI Technology Board, and took the lead in psychology and Consumer Science. With Givaudan he returned to Malodour technologies and built on the psychology findings of earlier work. He now takes an interest in the more fundamental psychological drivers of perfume perception.

 

Stuart Firestein
Olfactory Neurobiologist

Professor Stuart Firestein is the chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University. His laboratory uses the vertebrate olfactory receptor neuron as a model for investigating general principles, mechanisms of single transduction and mechanisms of adaptation and desensitisation. The most recent work in the lab uses Adenovirus vectors to drive over-expression of cloned odour receptors to try and to understand precisely why certain receptors can recognise specific odours.  Firestein has been elected as a fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is also an adviser to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation program for the Public Understanding of Science.

 

Alexander Fjaeldstad
Sensory Scientist

Dr Alexander Fjaeldstad is an Associate Professor at Aarhus University where he specialises in olfaction disorders and questions of flavour. He is a member of the teams working at the Flavour Institute at Arhaus University and the Hedonia Lab at Oxford University. In July 2020, Dr Fjaeldstad received funding to start a cooking school for anosmic and hyposmic patients to improve quality of life through recipes and knowledge.

 

Simon Gane
ENT Specialist

Simon Gane is a consultant ENT surgeon, appointed to the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital in 2017. He has a particular interest in rhinology, medical rhinology, olfaction and Hereditary Haemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT). Gane is also an honorary Research Fellow at the Institute of Philosophy, Centre for the Study of the Senses, School of Advanced Study, University of London and the Department of Psychology, City of London University.  More information on Simon

 

Thomas Hummel
ENT Specialist

Dr Thomas Hummel researches chemosensory systems at the Smell and Taste Clinic of the Department of Otorhinolarygology of the University of Dresden Medical School in Germany. At the olfactory/gustatory dysfunction clinic Dr Hummel works with patients that have neurodegenerative causes of olfactory loss and also investigates in the intranasal trigeminal system. Dr Hummel was previously an Assistant Professor at the Department of Otorhinolaryngology of the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the author/co-author of more than 300 peer-reviewed, original publications, more than 40 reviews in the chemosensory area, over 40 chapters and editor of two books in the scientific literature.

 

Chrissi Kelly
Patient Advocate

Chrissi Kelly founded the charity AbScent in 2018 to help people who are experiencing the distressing effects of smell loss. In 2019, alongside Professor Thomas Hummel, Kelly initiated The Sense of Smell Project which was the largest ever ‘crowd-sourced’ research project launched to support people with smell loss. Kelly has developed techniques, alongside smell training kits, which have helped people to reconnect with recovering their sense of smell. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelly has been active in distributing information about loss of smell and smell recovery techniques. More information on Chrissi.

 

Jane K Parker
Sensory Scientist

Dr Jane Parker is Associate Professor in Flavour Chemistry at the University of Reading. Dr Parker has a broad portfolio of research spanning sensory science, flavour analysis, reaction mechanisms and kinetic modelling, and recently, her expertise in GC-Olfactometry has come together with an interest in parosmia as she works to identify molecules in foods and beverages which can trigger parosmia. She works closely with industry, establishing the Flavour Centre at the University of Reading to provide consultancy, training and technical service for the food industry. Her edited volume, Flavour development, analysis and perception in food and beverages was published in 2014. More information on Jane

 

Carl Philpott
ENT Specialist

Carl Philpott is a professor of Rhinology and Olfactology at the University of East Anglia. There, he leads a number of research projects related to chronic sinusitis and smell and taste disorders. His main clinical interests include the medical and surgical treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis, allergic fungal rhinosinusitis and other sino-nasal disorders. In his position as Director of the first British Smell and Taste Clinic, Professor Philpott has had the opportunity to research the impact of olfactory disorders on suffers and is currently running a trial for a potential new treatment for a reduced sense of smell. Additionally, Professor Philpott helped to establish a patient led charity, Fifth Sense, is the ENT Lead for the Eastern Local Clinal Research Network as well as the current President of the British Society for Academic Otorhinolaryngology, and Vice President of The British Otorhinolaryngology & Allied Sciences Research Society.  More information on Carl

 

Katherine Whitcroft
ENT specialist

Katherine Whitcroft is a surgeon and researcher at the Royal National Throat and Ear Hospital and University College London. She is also an associate research fellow for the Centre for the Study of the Senses at the Institute of Philosophy, University of London. Her expertises are in the assessment of clinical olfaction using pyscho-physics, and structural and functional neuroimaging.

 

Tristram Wyatt
Sensory Scientist

Tristram Wyatt is a senior research fellow in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford and an emeritus fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford. His research focuses on the evolution of pheromones and animal behaviour. Before coming to Oxford, he was a university lecturer at the University of Leeds and held research fellowships at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Wales, Cardiff. His book Pheromones and Animal Behaviour won the Best Postgraduate Textbook Award of the Royal Society of Biology 2014.

 

 

Doctoral Fellows

Harry Sherwood
Philosopher and Perfumer 

Harry Sherwood is a perfumer and Philosophy PhD student currently working on problems in the Philosophy of Olfaction at the Centre for the Study of the Senses (London). Particularly, his interests lie at the intersections of aesthetics, psychophysics, and the metaphysics of perceptual objects; fundamentally guided by a desire to figure out how knowledge in perfumery and philosophy can benefit both fields. On the creative side, Harry works with new and established brands and organisations to create scents to fit briefs from simple candles to avant-garde theatrical productions. 

Student Fellows

Mika Hyman