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Durham University

Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

Outputs and Grants

Dining in the Dark

What an amazing experience Dining in the Dark was! Colleagues and I had been invited to the dinner by Professor Archibald, a great supporter of our Resources for Living* study on head and neck cancer survivors’ problems with food and eating. On this occasion, though, we were the subjects of the ‘experiment’.

Tasting onion only when I was told it was the soup’s main constituent was a very real reminder of how complex our relationship with food is – but through our Wolfson Special Interest Group on Culinary Innovation (again led by Duika), links with the Centre for the Study of the Senses (CenSes), University of London, and the work of Professor Charles Spence, Oxford University, we are learning that even visual cues may contribute to an appreciation of flavour.

And being ‘in the dark’ behind my blindfold was rather isolating. Is that question being directed at me? How much do I have on my fork? The noise, too, can be overwhelming. The experience made me think about becoming suddenly and somehow different, and finding normal day-to-day activities disrupted and made difficult. Most importantly, perhaps, it allowed me to come an inch closer to understanding what it is that our study participants face every day.

*The Resources for Living project is funded by the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit Programme. The lead investigator is Dr Duika Burges Watson, School of Medicine Pharmacy & Health. For further information, see our webpage: