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