Cortical contributions to olfaction: plasticity and perception

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2006 Aug;17(4):462-70. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2006.04.008. Epub 2006 May 5.


In most sensory systems, the sensory cortex is the place where sensation approaches perception. As described in this review, olfaction is no different. The olfactory system includes both primary and higher order cortical regions. These cortical structures perform computations that take highly analytical afferent input and synthesize it into configural odor objects. Cortical plasticity plays an important role in this synthesis and may underlie olfactory perceptual learning. Olfactory cortex is also involved in odor memory and association of odors with multimodal input and contexts. Finally, the olfactory cortex serves as an important sensory gate, modulating information throughput based on recent experience and behavioral state.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Olfactory Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology