Brain mechanisms for extracting spatial information from smell

Neuron. 2005 Aug 18;47(4):581-92. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2005.06.028.


Forty years ago, von Békésy demonstrated that the spatial source of an odorant is determined by comparing input across nostrils, but it is unknown how this comparison is effected in the brain. To address this, we delivered odorants to the left or right of the nose, and contrasted olfactory left versus right localization with olfactory identification during brain imaging. We found nostril-specific responses in primary olfactory cortex that were predictive of the accuracy of left versus right localization, thus providing a neural substrate for the behavior described by von Békésy. Additionally, left versus right localization preferentially engaged a portion of the superior temporal gyrus previously implicated in visual and auditory localization, suggesting that localization information extracted from smell was then processed in a convergent brain system for spatial representation of multisensory inputs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Nasal Cavity / physiology
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Mucosa / physiology
  • Olfactory Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology