On the scent of human olfactory orbitofrontal cortex: meta-analysis and comparison to non-human primates

Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 2005 Dec 15;50(2):287-304. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2005.08.004. Epub 2005 Oct 6.


It is widely accepted that the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) represents the main neocortical target of primary olfactory cortex. In non-human primates, the olfactory neocortex is situated along the basal surface of the caudal frontal lobes, encompassing agranular and dysgranular OFC medially and agranular insula laterally, where this latter structure wraps onto the posterior orbital surface. Direct afferent inputs arrive from most primary olfactory areas, including piriform cortex, amygdala, and entorhinal cortex, in the absence of an obligatory thalamic relay. While such findings are almost exclusively derived from animal data, recent cytoarchitectonic studies indicate a close anatomical correspondence between non-human primate and human OFC. Given this cross-species conservation of structure, it has generally been presumed that the olfactory projection area in human OFC occupies the same posterior portions of OFC as seen in non-human primates. This review questions this assumption by providing a critical survey of the localization of primate and human olfactory neocortex. Based on a meta-analysis of human functional neuroimaging studies, the region of human OFC showing the greatest olfactory responsivity appears substantially rostral and in a different cytoarchitectural area than the orbital olfactory regions as defined in the monkey. While this anatomical discrepancy may principally arise from methodological differences across species, these results have implications for the interpretation of prior human lesion and neuroimaging studies and suggest constraints upon functional extrapolations from animal data.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods
  • Electrophysiology
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Primates