Spatio-temporal dynamics of olfactory processing in the human brain: an event-related source imaging study

Neuroscience. 2010 May 19;167(3):700-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2010.02.013. Epub 2010 Feb 12.


Although brain structures involved in central nervous olfactory processing in humans have been well identified with functional neuroimaging, little is known about the temporal sequence of their activation. We recorded olfactory event-related potentials (ERP) to H(2)S stimuli presented to the left and right nostril in 12 healthy subjects. Topographic and source analysis identified four distinct processing steps between 200 and 1000 ms. Activation started ipsilateral to the stimulated nostril in the mesial and lateral temporal cortex (amygdala, parahippocampal gyrus, superior temporal gyrus, insula). Subsequently, the corresponding structures on the contralateral side became involved, followed by frontal structures at the end of the activation period. Thus, based on EEG-related data, current results suggest that olfactory information in humans is processed first ipsilaterally to the stimulated nostril and then activates the major relays in olfactory information processing in both hemispheres. Most importantly, the currently described techniques allow the investigation of the spatial processing of olfactory information at a high temporal resolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / anatomy & histology
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Pathways / anatomy & histology*
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus / anatomy & histology
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult