On the Scent: Unlocking the Mysteries of Smell – and How Its Loss Can Change Your World
‘Engaging and hopeful’ New Scientist
A fascinating exploration of how losing our sense of smell can shape our world, and how the global pandemic transformed our understanding of this mysterious sense.
When award-winning reporter Paola Totaro lost her sense of smell to Covid in March 2020, her world changed and dulled in an instant. Trapped in a sensory vacuum without fragrance or flavour, she embarked on a journey of discovery to unravel the mysteries – and eccentricities – of the fifth sense.
Our sense of smell shapes our everyday experiences in ways we often don’t even notice. Its loss can affect our emotional wellbeing, our relationships, our ability to interpret the world around us – and yet it has long been regarded as the least important of our senses. But almost overnight, Covid changed everything. As it became clear that loss of smell was a key symptom and the number of sufferers exploded, olfactory researchers suddenly found themselves thrust into the spotlight, with more attention, subjects and funding than ever before.
On the Scent is the story of a quest for answers, from the theories of ancient philosophers to the cutting-edge laboratories of 21st century neuroscience. It looks at the extraordinary experiences of patients and scientists alike, offering a unique glimpse into the world of those born without smell as well as those who lose it; exploring how smell can be a key indicator of declining physical health; and showing how new research may offer hope to the millions of people worldwide who have suffered sensory loss.
“An enthralling, elegantly written, and poignant exploration of our most neglected sense, one whose role in human life – in memory, emotion, attachment – has suddenly been made vivid by loss.” Peter Godfrey-Smith, author of the bestselling OTHER MINDS
“Such an engaging and pleasurable read which should do a lot to lift smell out of the shadows … packed with insights and observations that bring this topic to life for everyone” Professor Barry Smith, Centre for the Study of the Senses, University of London
“Destined to be a bible for anyone who has lost their sense of smell, whether from Covid or not” Chrissi Kelly, AbScent
“You don’t need to have lost your sense of smell to love this book, but if you have you will devour it… it will profoundly change the way you think about our ability to smell and how its loss affects our lives. This is science writing at its very best.” Fiona Fox, author of BEYOND THE HYPE: The inside story of science’s biggest media controversies