Dr. Helene Loos
Helene Loos explores mechanisms of perceptual and behavioural phenomena in the field of olfaction, applying a range of methods to identify and quantify odorants and their metabolites in biological samples, to characterize them in view of psychophysical parameters, and to assess their potential function in modulating behaviour.
Following her studies in food technology at the University of Hohenheim, Helene Loos obtained her doctorate (2015) in food chemistry at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU). During her PhD, she investigated the aroma composition of breast milk and the behavioural responses of neonates to selected odorants from sweat and milk, in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV, Freising, and the Centre des Sciences du Goût et de l’Alimentation, Dijon. After finishing her PhD studies, she performed applied research at the Department of Sensory Analytics, Fraunhofer IVV, with a focus on sensory evaluation and multisensory perception.
In 2017, she started her postdoctoral studies in the Department of Chemistry and Pharmacy at FAU, focusing on human psychophysiological responses to olfactory stimulation, which were supported by the programme “Promotion of Equal Opportunities for Women in Research and Teaching” (FFL). Since 2017, she is also one of the lead scientists contributing to the Campus of the Senses initiative. Her current research activities aim at establishing and enhancing the measurement and analysis of peripheral psychophysiological responses to olfactory stimulation. Further, in the framework of an Emerging Fields Initiative project having started in April 2019, Helene Loos and colleagues establish a methodological platform at FAU to study the chemical and biological principles of body odour formation, and the role of body odours in human chemical communication.
Helene Loos is pursuing research along three axes of main interest. These are:
- The investigation of perceptual and physiological effects of odour-active volatiles in humans.
Inhaling an odorant elicits a range of biochemical and (psycho)physiological processes related to the chemical structure itself or to the cognitive evaluation of the odour percept. We aim to elucidate how physiology, e.g., sniffing behaviour, skin conductance, and heart rate, is modulated by intrinsic properties of the odorant but also by context parameters. The methodology is further used for the activity-guided discovery of activating and calming odours, and for the assessment of consumer responses to food and non-food products. We are further interested in perceptual effects related to the biochemical process of olfaction, and in metabolization of odorants by the human body.
- The analytical characterization of odour-active and odourless volatiles in body odours.
Chemocommunication has been demonstrated in a range of species, and it is well known that odours, including body odours, also play a crucial role in human behaviour. Further, ingested or inhaled odorants undergo biotransformation processes in the body and are eliminated via several routes, possibly influencing human body odour. We aim to characterize odorous and non-odorous volatiles emitted by the human body by applying analytical techniques such as gas chromatography-olfactometry/mass spectrometry. To this aim, we investigate the composition of body fluids and gases such as milk, urine, sweat, and breath, and assess the influence of individual factors such as age, life style, and health to explore the diagnostic value and communicative potential of body odours.
Human body odours: exploring chemical signatures
- The analytical and behavioural characterization of odour-active and odourless volatiles in the context of early development.
Different developmental stages are characterized by different sensory, cognitive, and motor capacities, and different biochemical and physiological processes. We aim to characterize olfactory capacities and odour perception during development and to elucidate the role of olfaction in specific behaviours such as mother-infant-interaction, both in man and in animal models.
We are constantly complementing and optimizing the methods we use to answer our research questions. Amongst others, we apply the following methods in conjunction with the appropriate statistical interpretation:
- one- and two-dimensional gas chromatography-mass spectrometry/olfactometry with various odour sampling techniques
- descriptive and discriminative sensory evaluation, e.g. odour profile analysis, psychophysics
- demographic and psychological questionnaires
- analysis of facial movements
- analysis of physiological recordings, e.g. skin conductance or electrocardiogram
Several of the current research projects are done in cooperation with researchers from the field. We are always happy to start new collaborative projects.
Schaal B, Saxton TK, Loos H, Soussignan R, Durand K. (2020) Olfaction
scaffolds the developing human from neonate to adolescent and beyond.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 375: 20190261. doi:
Loos, H., Schaal, B., Reger, D. (2019). The odour of human milk: Its chemical variability and detection by newborns. Physiology & behavior, 199, 88-99. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.11.008
Zareian, M., Böhner, N., Loos, H. M., Silcock, P., Bremer, P., Beauchamp, J. (2018). Evaluation of volatile organic compound release in modified atmosphere-packaged minced raw pork in relation to shelf-life. Food packaging and shelf life 18, 51-61. doi: 10.1016/j.fpsl.2018.08.001
Mahmoud, M., Tybussek,T., Loos, H. M., Wagenstaller, M., Buettner, A. (2018). Odorants in fish feeds: a potential source of malodors in aquaculture. Frontiers in Chemistry, 6 (241). doi: 10.3389/fchem.2018.00241
Schreiner, L., Loos, H. M., Buettner, A. (2017). Identification of odorants in wood of Calocedrus decurrens (Torr.) Florin by aroma extract dilution analysis and two-dimensional gas chromatography-mass spectrometry/olfactometry. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. doi: 10.1007/s00216-017-0314-x
Loos, H.M., Doucet, S., Védrines, F., Sharapa, C., Soussignan, R., Durand, K., Sagot, P., Buettner, A., Schaal, B. (2017). Responses of human neonates to highly diluted odorants from sweat. Journal of Chemical Ecology. doi: 10.1007/s10886-016-0804-x
Loos, H. M., Doucet, S., Soussignan, R., Hartmann, C., Durand, K., Dittrich, R., Sagot, P., Buettner, A., Schaal, B. (2014). Responsiveness of human neonates to the odor of 5α-androst-16-en-3-one: a behavioral paradox? Chemical Senses, 39 (8), 693-703. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bju041
Fromm, M., Loos, H. M., Bayha, S., Carle, R., Kammerer, D. R. (2013). Recovery and characterization of coloured phenolic preparations from apple seeds. Food Chemistry, 136 (3-4), 1277-1287. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2012.09.042