I Can’t Smell Anything: Living Without the Most Powerful Sense

Of the five senses, smell is by far the most powerful – the only one hard wired to our brains. Smell is linked to memory and taste, and it’s deeply personal – each of us have entirely different reactions to odors wafting through the air or the foods we eat. But while we’ve examined scent from a variety of angles, what does it mean to be without it?

We talk to Dawn Finzi, a research associate in the neuroscience department at the University of California, San Diego, about what it’s like to live without a sense of smell. Finzi was born with congenital anosmia, a rare condition that causes a lifelong inability to smell. How does a lack of smell affect her ability to taste? (Spoiler alert: She thinks liver is delicious.) If she could smell anything in the world, what would it be?

Author annotation:

I’ve always been fascinated by the strong connection between smell and taste, and how that affects our memories, emotions and mood. If our sense of smell is in many ways the most powerful —and the most primal —what is it like to lose it? I ended up interviewing someone who never knew what it was like to be without it in the first place, and that was interesting in a different, unexpected way. Dawn was so open and generous with her time, and really wanted to talk about how this condition affects her life, even in minor, silly ways. I decided this type of a piece would best lend itself to an audio format, ideally a podcast. You can tell a story a thousand different ways, but sometimes, hearing it in the subject’s own voice is the most authentic, and compelling.

Giovanna Fabiano, Editorial

Production crew: Mike Pasquariello and Olivia Akien, Video Editors.

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I Can’t Smell Anything: Living Without the Most Powerful Sense