Before COVID, Datta says, “It was hard to get many people—some scientists included—to pay attention to smell as a legitimate wedge that one might use to understand the brain. And I think that’s really changed now.” For researchers like him and [Venkatesh] Murthy, the fresh urgency directed at their field is an unfamiliar feeling, but a galvanizing one. “I’m excited to begin to think more about the underlying problem of smell itself,” Datta says. Murthy foresees a renaissance in olfaction research. Lately he’s been contemplating how breathing and smelling might intertwine neurologically.
— Sandeep Robert Datta is professor of neurobiology at Harvard. Read more in The Mystery of Smell: COVID-19 shines a spotlight on a once-obscure field of science at Harvard Magazine.