A new method for comparing orthonasal and retronasal olfaction

Behav Neurosci. 2004 Apr;118(2):412-9. doi: 10.1037/0735-7044.118.2.412.


Odors seem to be perceived differently when presented ortho- or retronasally. In this study, stimuli of controlled concentration and duration were applied in either the anterior nasal cavity or epipharynx by means of air-dilution olfactometry. Stimulus concentration was monitored in the olfactory cleft. In Experiment 1, odor thresholds to a food (chocolate) and a nonfood (lavender) odor were lower for orthonasal, compared with retronasal, stimulation. In Experiment 2, intensity ratings to suprathreshold odor concentrations were significantly higher for orthonasal than for retronasal stimulation with hydro- hydrogen sulfide, but not phenyl ethyl alcohol. Accordingly, amplitudes and latencies of olfactory event-related gen potentials to retronasal stimuli were found to be smaller and prolonged, respectively. This indicates differential processing of olfactory stimuli presented through the retronasal or orthonasal routes. )

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electrophysiology / instrumentation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nasal Cavity / anatomy & histology*
  • Odorants*
  • Smell / physiology*