The neglected sense.

  • Audio

About this work


Presenter Kathy Clugston explores the human sense of smell, and discusses her experiences suffering from Anosmia. Chris Kelly and founder of Fifth Sense Duncan Boak talk about their experiences of the sudden loss of smell. They compare both the trivial, and more significant, ways having Anosmia affects everyday life. Founder of the Centre for the Study of the Senses at UCL Professor Barry Smith explains how humans are able to turn off familiar smells. Rhinologist Dr Simon Gyen explains how smell recognition works. Clugston compares Anosmia with Hyposmia. She then talks with her mother, who recalls an incident involving Clugston not being able to smell a gas heater leak. Next, Clugston visits a smell clinic at James Paget Hospital, Lowestoft. Clinical Research Nurse Jane Woods performs a smell test on Clugston. Darren Logan at the Wellcome Trust Genomics and Genetics Sanger Institute explains how volatile chemicals in substances that we can smell communicate this sense to the brain. Gyen discusses how a human’s sense of smell has evolved, and compares the effects of anosmia in humans to other animals. Founder of the Smell Clinic Carl Philpott explains the most common causes of smell loss. He examines Clugston’s nasal passages using an endoscope. Clugston and her partner, Broadcaster Jim Lee, discuss how Clugston’s Anosmia affects their everyday life. Professor Asifa Majid talks about smell memories. Clugston then explains Carl Linnaeus’ smell classifications, found in the Linnaean Taxonomy. Majid describes a study she conducted on the Jihai people of the Malay Penninsula, in which she discovered a rich olfactory language. Kelly recounts her experiences undergoing smell training and a course in perfumery, after losing her sense of smell. Boak explains how Fifth Sense trains people to distinguish tastes, despite not being able to smell. Smith and Clugston conduct a wine tasting session, and Smith explains the function of the trigeminal nerve in distinguishing certain components of smell. Next, Clugston undergoes an MRI scan to explore the part of her brain that manages olfactory responses. Gyen compares Clugston’s scan to another of a person with a good sense of smell.



Physical description

1 CD (30 min) ; 12 cm

Copyright note

Cast Iron Radio production for BBC Radio 4.


Originally broadcast on 12th April 2016 on BBC Radio 4.

Creator/production credits

Narrated by Kathy Clugston.


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