Olfactory system and emotion: common substrates

Eur Ann Otorhinolaryngol Head Neck Dis. 2011 Jan;128(1):18-23. doi: 10.1016/j.anorl.2010.09.007. Epub 2011 Jan 11.


THE AIM OF THE REVIEW: A large number of studies suggest a close relationship between olfactory and affective information processing. Odors can modulate mood, cognition, and behavior. The aim of this article is to summarize the comparative anatomy of central olfactory pathways and centers involved in emotional analysis, in order to shed light on the relationship between the two systems. ANATOMY OF THE OLFACTORY SYSTEM: Odorant contact with the primary olfactory neurons is the starting point of olfactory transduction. The glomerulus of the olfactory bulb is the only relay between the peripheral and central olfactory system. Olfactory information is conducted to the secondary olfactory structures, notably the piriform cortex. The tertiary olfactory structures are the thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, orbitofrontal cortex and insular cortex. THE IMPACT OF ODORS ON AFFECTIVE STATES: Quality of life is commonly impaired in dysosmic patients. There have, however, been few publications on this topic. EMOTION AND OLFACTION: COMMON BRAIN PATHWAYS: There are brain structures common to emotion and odor processing. The present review focuses on such structures: amygdala, hippocampus, insula, anterior cingulate cortex and orbitofrontal cortex. The physiology and anatomy of each of these systems is described and discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Olfaction Disorders / pathology
  • Olfaction Disorders / physiopathology
  • Olfactory Bulb / pathology
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiopathology
  • Olfactory Pathways / pathology*
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiopathology*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Smell / physiology*