Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind

A. S. Barwich (Author)
Available

Description

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.

Product Details

Price
$35.00
Publisher
Harvard University Press
Publish Date
July 14, 2020
Pages
384
Dimensions
5.8 X 1.6 X 8.2 inches | 1.2 pounds
Language
English
Type
Hardcover
EAN/UPC
9780674983694

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About the Author

A. S. Barwich is Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University Bloomington. She has been a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience at Columbia University's Center for Science and Society and has held a Research Fellowship at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research in Vienna. Her website is www.smellosophy.com.

Reviews

A love letter to olfaction. This book effortlessly blends science and philosophy and is a must-read for anyone with a sense of smell.--Leslie B. Vosshall, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and The Rockefeller University
Finding out why mint smells different from a skunk's spray turns out to be a much harder problem than why red looks different from blue. Barwich tells the fascinating story of why the science of smell has gone down many a false trail, and why the sciences of vision and audition made breakthroughs while olfaction remained mired in mystery. Smellosophy taught me a lot about my brain's smelly world.--Patricia Churchland, author of Conscience: The Origins of Moral Intuition
A. S. Barwich's new book, written with passion and infectious delight, unites history, art, philosophy, and in-depth interviews with pioneers in modern olfaction science. The result will enhance every reader's appreciation for the role of smell in human life.--Gordon M. Shepherd, author of Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters
Lewis Thomas famously remarked that smell contains 'all the mysteries' of biology; figure it out and you will have solved most of them. A. S. Barwich is a superb documentarian of the science behind how the brain detects an enormous range of odorous molecules, while also capturing the wonder of perceiving complex smells that form lasting emotional memories. Smellosophy is a unique and wondrous blend of the science of smell, the art and practice of research, the philosophy of consciousness, and 'all the mysteries' in between.--Stuart Firestein, author of Ignorance: How It Drives Science
This is the book on perception we have been waiting for: a scientifically-informed and philosophically astute treatment of our elusive sense of smell. A. S. Barwich skillfully guides us through the history of its study, recent discoveries, and philosophical theorizing about smell, and, in doing so, makes a significant contribution to all three.--Barry C. Smith, Centre for the Study of the Senses, University of London
Well-written and engaging, Smellosophy transforms the breakdown of complex concepts into a really good read. This book is an astonishing integration of all aspects of olfaction, relevant to scientists across disciplines as well as to any reader interested in the aromas of wine, coffee, and other scents hidden in our daily experiences.--Ann Noble, creator of the Wine Aroma Wheel
Barwich brings the curious science of smell to life through interviews with many of its key players. If you relish mysteries and constructing the logic to solve them, read Smellosophy.--Terry Acree, Department of Food Science, Cornell University