Fifth Sense Conference 2015 – Full Report

Programmes The third annual Fifth Sense conference on October 31st and November 1st run in partnership with the University of Surrey and supported by FlavorActiV was a highly successful coming together of Fifth Sense members, clinicians and researchers, sharing experiences and knowledge to advance our understanding of smell and taste disorders.

Fifth Sense founder and chair Duncan Boak opened the conference, themed ‘Let’s Talk Smell and Taste’, by describing how consolidating the structure of Fifth Sense and developing near and long-term objectives has been a key focus of 2015.

Audience1Some highlights of 2015 include:
– defining the roles and responsibilities of the members of the Fifth Sense board of trustees to guide and advise based on areas of personal/professional expertise
– fostering ties to parties relevant to Fifth Sense’s focus – notably agreeing a partnership with FlavorActiV
– a successful social media campaign entitled ‘Long Lost Smell’ for Anosmia Awareness Day 2015, which invited participants to share their significant aromas both good and bad
– Fifth Sense’s progress towards becoming a registered charity
– forthcoming launch of a redesigned and more user-friendly website

Duncan described the genesis of Fifth Sense and re-emphasised its commitment to supporting members; raising awareness among medical professionals, educators and other influencers and encouraging more public discourse through media and other channels, to push these hidden disorders to the fore – hence the theme ‘Let’s Talk Smell and Taste’.

Next, Richard Boughton, CEO of FlavorActiV, addressed his own route into a career dominated by the ability to smell and taste, first as a brewer and now as the leader of a global team of professional taste trainers who use the company’s own range of flavours to train tasting panels across the beverage industry. Richard talked about how FlavorActiV had learned about Fifth Sense’s work and how they aim to use their skills and expertise to help Fifth Sense members become better aware of their own taste/flavour perception abilities.


Dr Darren Logan

The remainder of the morning was devoted to a number of engaging presentations by clinicians, scientists and researchers including Consultant ENT Surgeon Mr Carl Philpott and Dr Darren Logan of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute/Monell Center as well as a Q&A session  for audience members with ENT Consultants Miss Lisha McClelland and Mr Philpott. These covered current understanding and treatment of disorders in terms of potential remedies and how patients are treated and guided by GPs and Consultants. Following this there were short presentations from Mr Philpott, Dr Logan and researchers Dr Lorenzo Stafford (University of Portsmouth) and Dr Jon Silas (University of Roehampton) around ongoing research and future possibilities.


The various workshops provided the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues relating to smell and taste disorders

Following lunch, Fifth Sense members participated in condition-specific workshops. Discussion took place around what further support and information people wanted to see from Fifth Sense on specific causations and also how members felt future research should be directed. The outcomes of each workshop were then then fed back and discussed in the closing session. Duncan and members of the Fifth Sense team are going to be meeting in November to discuss how the ideas that came out of the sessions can be taken forwards.

On the Saturday evening members of the Fifth Sense team and guests convened at a pub in Guildford for a chat over some liquid refreshments – just what was needed after a day of thought-provoking discussions!

The second day of the conference featured a range of interactive workshops targeting quality of life aspects of smell and taste disorders. Some of these were focused on providing practical support and advice such as the ‘food and cooking’ session led by Duncan Boak and Adrian Wellock which generated a great deal of discussion amongst the participants around increasing the enjoyment of food by paying more attention to other sensory elements in food such as texture and spiciness.


Liam Singleton leads the tasting element of FLavorActiV’s Taste, Train, Enjoy workshop

The ‘Taste, Train, Enjoy’ workshop provided an opportunity for open discussion on how FlavorActiV’s tools and taste trainers could be best utilised to support Fifth Sense members. The liquid taste and smell samples were used to spark a wider conversation about the practical use of ‘Take Home Taste Kits’ for self-diagnosis and independent training, and to offer the opportunity for members to volunteer to form part of a pilot study to learn the true value of bespoke, continuous taste training to improve taste/flavour perception abilities. More details will be released soon, but encouraging first steps were made and the FlavorActiV team received some invaluable feedback from members to help guide future activities.


Smell training

The ‘Smell Training’ workshop also had a practical element, with Duncan talking about the rationale for smell training and what Fifth Sense has learned from the fragrance industry, particularly around ways of communicating and describing smells. This led on to guests being given some prototype smell training kits which have been developed recently for Fifth Sense members to trial by staff from an organisation in the fragrance industry. Duncan and Tom Laughton guided people through the kits and gave advice on how to use them effectively.


Sharing Olfactory Experiences – communicating smells and memories through art


Kate McLean’s smell walk

There was also a great focus on helping Fifth Sense members come to terms with sensory impairment. Tom Laughton’s ‘coping with the loss of a sense’ session gave participants the opportunity to express what their loss has meant to them and gain understanding from others through doing so. Kelly Benneworth-Gray and Kate McLean ran workshops that explored different ways of communicating and sharing olfactory impairment. Kelly’s session focused on the language of olfaction and the challenges associated with describing olfactory disorders. Kate’s workshop involved participants creating visual representations of their perceptions of the olfactory world followed by a ‘smell walk’ that encouraged participants to share their retained memories of smells.

Special mention must go to University of Surrey’s Lakeside Restaurant led by Head Chef John Walter and Restaurant Manager Rhian Jones for the delicious lunch that was provided on the Sunday which featured a spicy beef chilli alongside a milder mixed vegetable chilli. Accompaniments included hand-made tortilla chips (described as ‘historic’ by one guest), spiced beetroot-infused sour cream with walnuts and a pomegranate, mango and sweetcorn salsa. Dessert was a damson sorbet made with some of John’s homemade damson gin which was extremely popular!

BeetrootOverall it was another highly successful conference and we are already making plans for Fifth Sense events in 2016.

We’d like to say a big thank you to the following people for their part in making this year’s event such a success:  Special mention to Charlotte Beebe for all her hard work in organising and running the event (and her mum for coming along and assisting on the Saturday), Julia Gerhold, Rhian Jones, John Walter, Tony Webber and the rest of the team at the University of Surrey, Richard Boughton, Liam Singleton, Martin Thomas and all at FlavorActiV, Kelly Benneworth-Gray, Tom Laughton, Darren Logan, Kate McLean, Miss Lisha McClelland, Sarah Page, Mr Carl Philpott, Alex Reilly, Jon Silas, Lorenzo Stafford, Adrian Wellock ….and, of course, to all the guests who joined us on the day.

All photographs courtesy of Sarah Kathleen Page:


One thought on “Fifth Sense Conference 2015 – Full Report

  1. Una Mary Synge Brown

    As I said in my letter to Mr Boak I very much regret that I could not attend the conference and I welcome any additional Fifth Sense news and would have been very interested to compare experiences. I suppose that particular tastes have some scientific molecular reason. Why should I have lost taste for my favourite fruits and vegetables though I can still smell some things.


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