Despite the general expectation that optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) growth should be described by a simple saturating exponential function, an additional high dose component is often reported in the dose response of quartz. Although often reported as linear, it appears that this response is the early expression of a second saturating exponential. While some studies using equivalent doses that fall in this high dose region have produced ages that correlate well with independent dating, others report that it results in unreliable age determinations. Two fine grain sedimentary quartz samples that display such a response were used to investigate the origin of this additional high dose component: three experiments were conducted to examine their dose–response up to >1000 Gy. The high dose rates provided by laboratory irradiation were found not to induce a sensitivity change in the response to a subsequent test dose, with the latter not being significantly different from those generated following naturally acquired doses. The relative percentage contributions of the fast and medium OSL components remained fixed throughout the dose–response curve, suggesting that the electron traps that give rise to the initial OSL do not change with dose. An attempt was made to investigate a change in luminescence centre recombination probability by monitoring the depletion of the ‘325 °C’ thermoluminescence (TL) during the optical stimulation that would result in depletion of the OSL signal. The emissions measured through both the conventional ultraviolet (UV), and a longer wavelength violet/blue (VB) window, displayed similar relative growth with dose, although it was not possible to resolve the origin of the VB emissions. No evidence was found to indicate whether the additional component at high doses occurs naturally or is a product of laboratory treatment. However, it appears that these samples display an increased sensitivity of quartz OSL to high doses that is not recorded by the sensitivity to a subsequent test dose, and which results in a change in the sensitivity-corrected dose–response curve.