Making Sense of Smell

Volume 27 Issue 10 | October 2013

Cover Story

Smell and the Degenerating Brain

By Richard L. Doty | October 1, 2013

An impaired sense of smell is one of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and some other neurodegenerative diseases. Could it be a useful diagnostic tool?

Featured Articles

image: A Pheromone by Any Other Name

A Pheromone by Any Other Name

By C. Ron Yu | October 1, 2013

Long known to play a role in sexual attraction, pheromones are revealing their influence over a range of nonsexual behaviors as researchers tease apart the neural circuitry that translates smells into action.

image: Send in the Bots

Send in the Bots

By Jef Akst | October 1, 2013

Animal robots have become a unique tool for studying the behavior of their flesh-and-blood counterparts.




Meet some of the people featured in the October 2013 issue of The Scientist.


Get a Whiff of This

An issue devoted to the latest research on how smells lead to actions

Speaking of Science

Speaking of Science

October 2013's selection of notable quotes


Biofuel Mimicry

Could the fungus-gardening activities of leafcutter ants teach humans how to produce sustainable biofuels?

Trouble in the Heartland

A new tick-borne disease has emerged in the US Midwest—and the culprit is not a bacterium. 

Viral in Valencia

A genetic analysis that tracks the evolution of pathogens helped incriminate a Spanish anesthetist who infected hundreds of patients with hepatitis C.

A Briny Paradise

Hypersaline, anoxic basins on the Mediterranean seafloor harbor pockets of unique and diverse life.

Critic at Large

Proceed with Caution

While genomic data sharing is essential for research, scientists must work to keep sensitive, potentially damaging information under wraps.

Three-Way Parenthood

Avoiding the transmission of mitochondrial disease takes a trio, but raises a host of logistical issues.

Modus Operandi

Monitoring Magnetic Bugs

Diamonds are a biomagnetologist’s best friend.

The Literature

Scent Sorting

In discrete neuron networks linking odor receptors in the nose to higher brain areas, similar odors are parsed by deep-lying cells with narrow odor selectivity.

Odor Encoder

Ensembles of as few as 25 mushroom body neurons allow Drosophila to distinguish and react to specific odors. 

Let It Linger

Prolonged responses to odors, called afterimages, may originate in the brain, rather than in the nose.


An Olfaction Odyssey

Thanks to a book, a war, and a big green caterpillar, John Hildebrand found himself mapping the exquisite and surprising wiring of the insect olfactory system.

Scientist to Watch

Yoav Gilad: Gene Regulator

Professor, Department of Human Genetics, University of Chicago. Age: 38

Lab Tools

Scents in a Flash

The modern technique of optogenetics stimulates the complex act of smelling with a simple flash of light.

Data Drive

Solutions for sharing, storing, and analyzing big data


Bonding in the Lab

How to make your lab less like a factory and more like a family

Reading Frames

Dr. Darwin at the Bedside

It’s time for evolutionary medicine to fully inform clinical research and patient care.

Capsule Reviews

Capsule Reviews

Perv, Behind the Shock Machine, The Gaia Hypothesis, and Life at the Speed of Light


The Leprosy Bacillus, circa 1873

A scientist’s desperate attempts to prove that Mycobacterium leprae causes leprosy landed him on trial, but his insights into the disease’s pathology were eventually vindicated.

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