Sniffing and whisking in rodents

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2012 Apr;22(2):243-50. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2011.11.013. Epub 2011 Dec 15.


Sniffing and whisking are two rhythmic orofacial motor activities that enable rodents to localize and track objects in their environment. They have related temporal dynamics, possibly as a result of both shared musculature and shared sensory tasks. Sniffing and whisking also constitute the overt expression of an animal's anticipation of a reward. Yet, the neuronal mechanisms that underlie the control of these behaviors have not been established. Here, we review the similarities between sniffing and whisking and suggest that such similarities indicate a mechanistic link between these two rhythmic exploratory behaviors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology*
  • Rodentia / physiology*
  • Vibrissae / physiology