Receptor contributions to configural and elemental odor mixture perception

Behav Neurosci. 2003 Oct;117(5):1108-14. doi: 10.1037/0735-7044.117.5.1108.


Odor mixture perception can be configural (the mixture is qualitatively different from the components) or elemental (the components are recognizable). Some have argued that configural properties are dependent on chemical similarity and possible overlap at the receptor level. The authors show that a binary mixture in which both components activate the same receptor (17) has a configural odor, whereas a mixture that suppresses overlap has elemental odor properties. Rats trained to recognize mixtures of citronellal and octanal (strong 17 agonists) in many ratios rarely recognize the components, supporting configural representation of the odor mixture. However, when trained to recognize mixtures of citral (partial 17 agonist, inhibitor) and octanal, rats recognize 1 or both components over a wide range of ratios.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Aldehydes / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Male
  • Monoterpenes / pharmacology
  • Odorants*
  • Perception / drug effects
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Odorant / physiology*
  • Smell / drug effects
  • Smell / physiology


  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Aldehydes
  • Monoterpenes
  • Receptors, Odorant
  • citronellal