Exploring the links between smell and the mind at the IFRA UK Fragrance Forum
Tuesday, 16 October 2018 at 10:14:AM
On 10 October, I attended the annual meeting of the UK branch of the International Fragrance Association (IFRA), which was held at the Wellcome Collection, Euston, London. This year, the theme chosen by the organisers was the association between olfaction and health (titled ‘Scentimental: Fragrance
on the mind’), which proved to be very interesting.
Alzheimer’s – The role of smell
The meeting was kicked off by a presentation on the smell of
Parkinson’s, and specifically the fascinating case of Joy Milne, who was able
to diagnose her husband’s Parkinson’s years before the diagnosis by noticing a
change in his body odour. Joy’s extraordinary capability was recognised by Professor
Perdita Barran (University of Manchester) and Dr Tylo Kunath (University of
Edinburgh), who used TD–GC–MS/olfactometry to pinpoint the chemical compounds that
define the ‘olfactory note’ of Parkinson’s.
Following this was Dr Latha Velayudhan (King’s College
London), who explained how Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by impaired
olfaction, and how olfactory tests could be used to complement the traditional
cognitive tests used for diagnosis.
Urban pollution and
Next, consultant and producer Lizzy Ostrom and artist
Michael Pinsky organised an interactive session on the chemical reconstitution
of the pollution ‘bouquet’ of major cities in the world, used as a means to
make the general public and policy-makers more conscious about environmental
Finally, Professor Keith Wesnes (University of Exeter) and
Dr Mark Moss (University of Northumbria) discussed the impact that certain
smells have on cognitive function. Dr Moss presented data showing how the aroma
of certain herbs, universally used in traditional medicine, increase
performance in standardised cognitive tests. This leads to the intriguing idea
that the reason why herbs such as mint or ylang-ylang are so commonly used is
that – by engaging our senses – they also to an extent engage our mind.
Extending the scope
of fragrance analysis
All in all, the meeting provided an opportunity for
major fragrance manufacturers and regulators to hear about some broader research
themes and activities that influence the fragrance industry. It was also
interesting for us as manufacturers of analytical equipment to see how the
‘fragrance’ application area – often treated in the narrow sense of analysing
fragranced goods – can be considered as part of a much broader area of
To learn more about how our analytical equipment can be used to investigate fragrance profiles, I recommend you take a look at our Applications Guide on Fragrance and odour profiling.
Andrea Romano received his Ph.D. in Food Biotechnology from the University of Milan in 2008, and has several years’ experience of using GC–MS to analyse food, beverages and exhaled breath. He is now Market Development Specialist at Markes International, where he supports researchers and companies working on trace-level compound detection