Learning to Smell with Dr. Donald Wilson
Smell plays a surprisingly important role in our lives, and research is starting to open the door as to how this enigmatic sensory system gives us the power to explore the chemical world in which we live. We will talk about how humans and other animals use their sense of smell for everything from finding food, to bonding with family, to avoiding danger. We will dive into how our brains allow us to use odors to do these things, and how odors become so tightly linked to emotion and well-being. Most odors we experience are complex mixtures of many different chemicals and our olfactory systems learn to group these mixtures into distinct aromas. Thus, the ability to distinguish between the scent of jasmine and strawberry, or between a Merlot and a Pinot Noir, requires the olfactory system to learn and remember complex patterns. This places memory at the heart of our ability to smell and identify odors. Unfortunately, this makes smell vulnerable to many different disorders such as dementia. We will talk about smell in health and disease and some simple ways to train your nose to extract all the richness of the smelly world.
Don Wilson received his Ph.D. in psychology from McMaster University and was a post-doctoral fellow in psychobiology at the University of California at Irvine. He is currently Director and Senior Research Scientist of the Emotional Brain Institute at the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research and Professor (tenured) of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Neuroscience & Physiology at New York University Langone School of Medicine. His research focuses on the interaction between memory and perception, especially in olfaction, as well as how experience shapes brain circuits across the lifespan from early development to aging.
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