We aim to increase understanding of how the sense of smell is cognitively processed.
The six-year program began in February 2015 and will conclude in February 2021. End-of-year reports will be available for each program year, with the first published in the summer of 2016.
The project is headquartered at the Gösta Ekman Laboratory at Stockholm University (Stockholm, Sweden). Research is also conducted at Umeå University (Umeå, Sweden). To learn more about our facilities, visit the Labs page.
The research program is funded by a $3.7 million (SEK 26M) grant from the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences (Riksbankens Jubeliumsfond). This is one of the largest grants in the history of Swedish psychology.
We're investigating how the mind processes olfaction through six research projects. Read below to learn more about each project.
PROJECT ONE / LED BY JOHAN WILLANDER & MARIA LARSSON
Fragrant flashbacks: The role of retrograde interference in long-term odor memory
Odors tend to evoke memories from our first 10 years of life, whereas our other senses tend to evoke memories from young adulthood. In Project One, we investigate whether this difference in the olfactory sense might be explained by a lower retrograde interference, a phenomenon in which learning new information typically impedes our ability to retrieve old information.
PROJECT TWO / LED BY ARTIN ARSHAMIAN & MARIA LARSSON
Out of sight: Odor memory, imagery, and olfactory dreams in the congenitally blind
There is ample evidence that some people who are born blind have increased abilities in their senses of touch and hearing, but few studies have tested the sense of smell among the congenitally blind. In Project Two, we explore olfactory abilites and experiences in this group.
PROJECT THREE / LED BY JONAS OLOFSSON
Investigating the "missing link" between words and odors
Scholars have long asserted that olfaction is fundamentally disconnected from our language system -- even Plato once wrote that "odors have no names, but can be described only as pleasant or painful." In Project Three, we investigate the mechanisms underlying the odor-language connection, with a focus on how odor objects are semantically integrated compared to the other senses.
PROJECT FOUR / LED BY JONAS OLOFSSON & SIMON NIEDENTHAL
Expanding the world of smell through odor game interventions
A good sense of smell has many advantages in daily life: it helps us stay clean, eat well, and avoid health risks like mold. In Project Four, we develop and test "brain games" that engage and strengthen the sense of smell in order to impact food-related behaviors like picky eating, flavor appreciation, and food cravings.
PROJECT FIVE / LED BY JONAS OLOFSSON & MARIA LARSSON
Smell the change: The association between olfactory and episodic memory decline in the elderly
For many people, the sense of smell significantly declines with age. A reduced sense of smell is also associated with dementia and other cognitive dysfunctions among the elderly. In Project Five, we examine olfactory decline as a potential predictor of other cognitive changes, particularly in episodic memory.
PROJECT SIX / LED BY LINUS ANDERSSON & STEVEN NORDIN
Not getting used to smells: Is it stress, illness, or simply the way you are?
Most of us adjust to new environmental smells fairly quickly -- for example, we might initially notice the smell of a friend's home but quickly get used to it. But for some people, normal environmental smells become increasingly bothersome instead of fading away, sometimes severely impairing their ability to work, study, or socialize. Project Six investigates potential explanations for this peculiar phenomenon.
PROJECT SEVEN / LED BY MARCO TULLIO LIUZZA, JONAS OLOFSSON, & MARIA LARSSON
Body odors, disgust, and social attitudes
Launched in 2016, Project Seven investigates the relationship between disgust, body odors, and social attitudes such as implicit prejudice. This research includes the development of a new