Central mechanisms of odour object perception

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2010 Sep;11(9):628-41. doi: 10.1038/nrn2883. Epub 2010 Aug 11.


The stimulus complexity of naturally occurring odours presents unique challenges for central nervous systems that are aiming to internalize the external olfactory landscape. One mechanism by which the brain encodes perceptual representations of behaviourally relevant smells is through the synthesis of different olfactory inputs into a unified perceptual experience--an odour object. Recent evidence indicates that the identification, categorization and discrimination of olfactory stimuli rely on the formation and modulation of odour objects in the piriform cortex. Convergent findings from human and rodent models suggest that distributed piriform ensemble patterns of olfactory qualities and categories are crucial for maintaining the perceptual constancy of ecologically inconstant stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Humans
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Physiological / physiology