Behavioral models of odor similarity

Behav Neurosci. 2002 Apr;116(2):222-31. doi: 10.1037//0735-7044.116.2.222.


Carbon chain length in several classes of straight-chain aliphatic odorants has been proposed as a model axis of similarity for olfactory research, on the basis of successes of studies in insect and vertebrate species. To assess the influence of task on measured perceptual similarities among odorants and to demonstrate that the systematic similarities observed within homologous odorant series are not task specific, the authors compare 3 different behavioral paradigms for rats (olfactory habituation, generalization, and discrimination). Although overall patterns of odorant similarity are consistent across all 3 of these paradigms, both quantitative measurements of perceptual similarity and comparability with 2-deoxyglucose imaging data from the olfactory bulb are dependent on the specific behavioral tasks used. Thus, behavioral indices of perceptual similarity are affected by task parameters such as learning and reward associations.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Generalization, Stimulus / physiology
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic / physiology
  • Learning / physiology
  • Male
  • Odorants*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reward
  • Smell / physiology*