a report on ECRO 2022.. and update on ECRO 2023!

The annual conference of the European Chemoreception Research Organization, ECRO 2022 (ECRO 2022 – Berlin – chemicalsenses), took place in a beautiful location in Berlin: the Harnack House, laden with scientific history (see Home | Harnack House of the Max Planck Society (mpg.de)). For many, this was their first in-person conference in more than 2.5 years, so it was a warm reunion of familiar faces. The conference started with a keynote lecture by Christophe Laudamiel, master perfumer, and self-proclaimed ‘scent-gineer’, meaning he can create and construct new aromas and perfumes himself. It was a dazzling and intense first hour, filled with smells, creations and a passionate discourse about the importance of context in perception. Other keynotes during the conferences were given by Greg Jefferis (on connectomics), Masha Niv (on bitter and sweet taste receptors), Yoshihiro Yoshihara (on olfactory receptors in zebrafish), Anna Menini (on the peripheral olfactory system), and, last but not least, Johan Lundstrom, who talked about a new and exciting method to measure human olfactory responses from the bulb (electrobulbogram).

One of my personal highlights was the clinical symposium, organized by Thomas Hummel, on plasticity of the sense of smell. Here, speakers touched upon the regenerating capacity of the olfactory mucosa, the effect of olfactory training for recovery, differences between sighted and non-sighted smellers, and the potential of olfactory implants and transplants. All of course highly relevant in the context of the still-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, where millions of people have (temporarily) lost their sense of smell. Another interesting symposium was on chemosensory perception of social signals. NOSE member Monique Smeets spoke on the future trends in human chemosignalling research, while others highlighted how our body odors can convey information related to family (kin recognition), age, and disease, and how this can be perceived as disgusting or attractive. Excellent junior speakers were found in the Young Investigator symposium (e.g. on odor intensity in mixtures;  the importance of modeling and computational science for odor perception and prediction; and -again- on body odor disgust) and in the symposium on Perturbing Chemosensation, organized by Women in Olfactory Science (WIOS, Women in Olfactory Science (google.com)) in which a variety of early career female researchers touched upon the impact of perturbation – be it climate change, viral infection, nerve stimulation or hormones- impact chemosensory perception.

But beyond the scientific content of the program, the organization had done a wonderful job on the social program. The conference started with a welcome barbecue, there was a boat tour along the Spree, and on the last day, a gala dinner in one of the most popular places of Berlin: Clarchens ballroom. A historic ballroom from the 1910s, still in its original state, with a beautiful courtyard. After dinner, DJ Gomez took over, and conference attendees danced until long after midnight..

Overall, a big thank you to the organizers, and a warm invitation to everyone to attend next year’s ECRO, which will be hosted in the Netherlands, 18-21 Sept 2023! ECRO XXXIII – 2023, Nijmegen, The Netherlands – chemicalsenses

– Sanne Boesveldt

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