Segments in this Video

Chemical Controls (03:08)


Each day, people breathe an average of 23,000 times, categorizing and responding to odors without noticing. When questioned, most people would prefer to give up their sense of smell than their access to technology.

Scent Molecules (03:20)

Anja Taylor and Professor Paul A. Moore of the Laboratory of Sensory Ecology discuss the strong sense of smell that allows dogs to pick up information about other dogs including their reproductive status, what they have eaten, and whether they got along the last time they interacted. This sensitivity allows them to pick up the smell of cancer with 95 percent accuracy. Their brains have larger areas designated to smell.

Greeting Experiment (02:01)

In an experiment where 271 people are secretly filmed after greeting someone, people were much more likely to smell their own hands. This could be a sampling behavior similar to that of dogs. Moore details the effects of testosterone on human competitiveness.

Diversity of Floral Scents (03:38)

Plants communicate with one another by chemicals. When a plant is attacked by an insect, it emits chemical signals that warn other plants, which will then release toxins. Birds are also known to come to eat the attacking bugs when this happens.

Mimicking Smell (03:15)

Though humans do not have a lot of smell receptors relative to animals like dogs, Dr. Stephen Trowell of CSIRO is trying to recreate human smell, which does have 400 channels. The multi-dimension sense has required over a decade of trial and error for scientists at CSIRO to create their smell detector, using worms in their work.

Objective Clinical Test (02:27)

Scents are contaminated with emotional responses in the human brain. Certain scents are immediately either strongly liked or disliked by newborn babies. Researchers study the facial muscles used by babies that communicate scents they do or do not like.

Lizard Brain (02:32)

The lower part of the brain activates primal circuits that have been present in during the entire history of evolution. Olfactory memories are activated by smells, and people often experience childhood memories when they smell certain things. Moore and Taylor demonstrate how smell affects taste buds with cake.

Lost Taste (03:22)

In a scent and taste buds experiment, Taylor has passersby try to decipher the flavor of jellybeans with their noses plugged. People with anosmia have permanently lost their sense of smell, like Anna Barnes who lost her sense of smell when she was mugged and hit on the head.

Cabernet Sauvignon (03:30)

Wine tasting relies heavily on scent. Taylor has never felt proud of her sense of smell, so wine tasting has been an intimidating activity for her. Dr. Alex Russell discusses picking out wine notes with Taylor and how people can learn to do it.

Credits: Smell: Our Most Underestimated Sense—Catalyst (00:53)

Credits: Smell: Our Most Underestimated Sense—Catalyst

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Smell: Our Most Underestimated Sense—Catalyst

Part of the Series : Catalyst
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $149.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $224.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $149.95



Smell is our most ancient, but also our most underestimated sense. In a recent survey of young adults, just over half said they would rather lose their sense of smell than their access to technology, like laptops or smartphones. In this episode Anja Taylor investigates the hidden powers of smell, and how smell influences many aspects of our lives in ways we often overlook.

Length: 29 minutes

Item#: BVL128543

ISBN: 978-1-64023-343-0

Copyright date: ©2016

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.