Speed-accuracy tradeoff in olfaction

Neuron. 2006 Aug 3;51(3):351-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2006.07.013.


The basic psychophysical principle of speed-accuracy tradeoff (SAT) has been used to understand key aspects of neuronal information processing in vision and audition, but the principle of SAT is still debated in olfaction. In this study we present the direct observation of SAT in olfaction. We developed a behavioral paradigm for mice in which both the duration of odorant sampling and the difficulty of the odor discrimination task were controlled by the experimenter. We observed that the accuracy of odor discrimination increases with the duration of imposed odorant sampling, and that the rate of this increase is slower for harder tasks. We also present a unifying picture of two previous, seemingly disparate experiments on timing of odorant sampling in odor discrimination tasks. The presence of SAT in olfaction provides strong evidence for temporal integration in olfaction and puts a constraint on models of olfactory processing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Stimulation, Chemical