Differential neural responses evoked by orthonasal versus retronasal odorant perception in humans

Neuron. 2005 Aug 18;47(4):593-605. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2005.07.022.


Odors perceived through the mouth (retronasally) as flavor are referred to the oral cavity, whereas odors perceived through the nose (orthonasally) are referred to the external world. We delivered vaporized odorants via the orthonasal and retronasal routes and measured brain response with fMRI. Comparison of retronasal versus orthonasal delivery produced preferential activity in the mouth area at the base of the central sulcus, possibly reflecting olfactory referral to the mouth, associated with retronasal olfaction. Routes of delivery produced differential activation in the insula/operculum, thalamus, hippocampus, amygdala, and caudolateral orbitofrontal cortex in orthonasal > retronasal and in the perigenual cingulate and medial orbitofrontal cortex in retronasal > orthonasal in response to chocolate, but not lavender, butanol, or farnesol, so that an interaction of route and odorant may be inferred. These findings demonstrate differential neural recruitment depending upon the route of odorant administration and suggest that its effect is influenced by whether an odorant represents a food.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Appetite / physiology
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mouth / innervation
  • Mouth / physiology*
  • Nasal Cavity / innervation
  • Nasal Cavity / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Mucosa / physiology
  • Olfactory Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Taste / physiology