Rats smell in stereo

Science. 2006 Feb 3;311(5761):666-70. doi: 10.1126/science.1122096.


It has been hypothesized that rats and other mammals can use stereo cues to localize odor sources, but there is limited behavioral evidence to support this hypothesis. We found that rats trained on an odor-localization task can localize odors accurately in one or two sniffs. Bilateral sampling was essential for accurate odor localization, with internasal intensity and timing differences as directional cues. If the stimulus arrived at the correct point of the respiration cycle, internasal timing differences as short as 50 milliseconds sufficed. Neuronal recordings show that bulbar neurons responded differentially to stimuli from the left and stimuli from the right.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Psychological
  • Cues
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Nasal Cavity / innervation
  • Nasal Cavity / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Nose / anatomy & histology
  • Nose / physiology*
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology
  • Phenylethyl Alcohol
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Respiration
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Trigeminal Nerve / physiology


  • Phenylethyl Alcohol