A psychophysical test of the vibration theory of olfaction

Nat Neurosci. 2004 Apr;7(4):337-8. doi: 10.1038/nn1215. Epub 2004 Mar 21.


At present, no satisfactory theory exists to explain how a given molecule results in the perception of a particular smell. One theory is that olfactory sensory neurons detect intramolecular vibrations of the odorous molecule. We used psychophysical methods in humans to test this vibration theory of olfaction and found no evidence to support it.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Discrimination, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odorants*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Psychophysics
  • Receptors, Odorant / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Signal Detection, Psychological*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship*
  • Vibration


  • Receptors, Odorant