Episode #36:  Smellosophy with Ann-Sophie Barwich

In this episode, Frauke sits down with cognitive scientist and empirical philosopher, Ann-Sophie Barwich, PhD to talk about her book Smellosophy: What the Nose tells the Mind, which highlights the importance of thinking about the sense of smell as a model for neuroscience and the senses.

Ann-Sophie shares her perspective on why smelling is so underappreciated, what we get wrong about this elusive sense, and why she believes our sense of smell is truly amazing (and like no other!).

She reveals many fascinating facts about smelling from a biological and psychological perspective, and encourages us to use this beautiful sense as a connection with ourselves, our environment, and others.

You'll also learn about the exciting new "Stink Tank" laboratory she's building at Indiana University, and the experimental testing she's planning to conduct to help further our understanding of smell.

Strap yourself in for an enlightening conversation and a few laughs along the way!


Check out Ann-Sophie's website: https://www.smellosophy.com

Ann-Sophie Barwich, PhD @ Indiana University, Bloomington

#36: Smellosophy with Ann-Sophie Barwich

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A pioneering exploration of olfaction that upsets settled notions of how the brain translates sensory information.

Decades of cognition research have shown that external stimuli “spark” neural patterns in particular regions of the brain. This has fostered a view of the brain as a space that we can map: here the brain responds to faces, there it perceives a sensation in your left hand. But it turns out that the sense of smell—only recently attracting broader attention in neuroscience—doesn’t work this way. A. S. Barwich asks a deceptively simple question: What does the nose tell the brain, and how does the brain understand it?

Barwich interviews experts in neuroscience, psychology, chemistry, and perfumery in an effort to understand the biological mechanics and myriad meanings of odors. She argues that it is time to stop recycling ideas based on the paradigm of vision for the olfactory system. Scents are often fickle and boundless in comparison with visual images, and they do not line up with well-defined neural regions. Although olfaction remains a puzzle, Barwich proposes that what we know suggests the brain acts not only like a map but also as a measuring device, one that senses and processes simple and complex odors.

Accounting for the sense of smell upsets theories of perception philosophers have developed. In their place, Smellosophy articulates a new model for understanding how the brain represents sensory information.

(C) 2020 Harvard University Press