Cognitive modulation of olfactory processing

Neuron. 2005 May 19;46(4):671-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2005.04.021.


We showed how cognitive, semantic information modulates olfactory representations in the brain by providing a visual word descriptor, "cheddar cheese" or "body odor," during the delivery of a test odor (isovaleric acid with cheddar cheese flavor) and also during the delivery of clean air. Clean air labeled "air" was used as a control. Subjects rated the affective value of the test odor as significantly more unpleasant when labeled "body odor" than when labeled "cheddar cheese." In an event-related fMRI design, we showed that the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)/medial orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) was significantly more activated by the test stimulus and by clean air when labeled "cheddar cheese" than when labeled "body odor," and the activations were correlated with the pleasantness ratings. This cognitive modulation was also found for the test odor (but not for the clean air) in the amygdala bilaterally.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Psychophysics
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Time Factors


  • Oxygen