Annu Rev Psychol. 2001;52:423-52. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.423.


The main and accessory olfactory systems have received considerable attention on the part of scientists and clinicians during the last decade, largely because of (a) quantum advances in understanding their genetically expressed receptor mechanisms, (b) evidence that their receptor cells undergo neurogenesis and both programmed and induced cell death, and (c) important technical and practical developments in psychophysical measurement. The latter developments have led to the proliferation of standardized olfactory testing in laboratories and clinics, and to the discovery that smell loss is among the first signs of a number of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease and idiopathic Parkinson's disease. Recent controversial claims that humans possess a functioning vomeronasal system responsive to "pheromones" has added further interest in intranasal chemoreception. This review focuses on recent progress made in understanding olfactory function, emphasizing transduction, measurement, and clinical findings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Humans
  • Olfaction Disorders / etiology
  • Pheromones / physiology
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Vomeronasal Organ / physiology


  • Pheromones