Olfactory discrimination of structurally similar alcohols by cockroaches

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2002 Nov;188(10):787-97. doi: 10.1007/s00359-002-0366-y. Epub 2002 Nov 7.


The capability of the cockroach Periplaneta americana to discriminate odors of structurally similar aliphatic alcohols was studied by using an operant conditioning paradigm. Cockroaches were trained to discriminate three odors: one odor associated with sucrose solution (reward) and two odors associated with NaCl solution (non-reward). After training, their odor preferences were tested by counting the number of visits to each odor source. We tested the capability of cockroaches to discriminate (1) three normal aliphatic alcohols with different numbers of carbon (1-pentanol, 1-hexanol and 1-octanol), (2) three C6 aliphatic alcohols (1-hexanol, 2-hexanol and trans-2-hexen-1-ol), (3) binary mixtures of two of these three alcohols and their components, and (4) 1-hexanol solution of three different concentrations (1, 10 and 100 micro g micro l(-1)). Cockroaches exhibited higher preferences for the odors associated with reward in these tests, and we therefore conclude that cockroaches can discriminate these odors. However, discrimination of 1-hexanol and trans-2-hexen-1-ol and their binary mixture was imperfect, in that some statistical tests suggested significant level of discrimination but other tests did not. In addition, the cockroaches learned to associate a 1-hexanol solution of the highest or lowest concentration with sucrose reward but failed to learn to associate 1-hexanol of an intermediate concentration with reward.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 1-Octanol
  • Alcohols / chemistry*
  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning / drug effects
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Hexanols
  • Male
  • Odorants*
  • Pentanols
  • Periplaneta / physiology*
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Smell / drug effects*
  • Smell / physiology*


  • Alcohols
  • Hexanols
  • Pentanols
  • 1-hexanol
  • 2-hexanol
  • n-pentanol
  • 1-Octanol