Follow Your Nose: Identifying Odors

Sep 11, 2006 | Contact Author | By: Katie Schaefer
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Title: Follow Your Nose: Identifying Odors
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The Monell Chemical Senses Center has discovered a new observation related to the sense of smell. Research into the relationship between time and smell identification has determined that smelling an odor as little as a hundred milliseconds longer can lead to a more accurate identification of that odor. This observation is linked to how olfactory information is processed by the brain.

The center established a relationship between odor sampling time and accurate odor identification to deduce that the brain processes olfactory information in a similar manner to how it processes visual and auditory stimuli. Using trained mice, the center was able to conclude that the mice were able to accurately identify odors, when given more time.

According to the center, the human nose may contain hundreds of different types of olfactory receptors while animals such as dogs or rats may have thousands. Researchers at the center have hypothesized that perception of an odor involves simultaneous stimulation of several different receptors, and that the brain identifies odors though an olfactory code. Monell also noted that experience and motivational state also play a part in influencing odor processing and identification. How the brain processes the information to perceive the odors, however, is not known.

“Previous published work suggested that olfaction was different from vision and audition in lacking this fundamental property. We now can use accumulated information about these other sensory systems to help us understand olfaction,” said Alan Gelperin PhD, a company computational neuroscientist, in a Monell press release.

The discovery, according to the center, will be further developed. This finding may lead to the creation of new technology that incorporates the identification of odors.

Katie Schaefer, C&T Magazine
-According to a Monell Chemical Senses Center Press Release