Smelling directions: olfaction modulates ambiguous visual motion perception

Sci Rep. 2014 Jul 23;4:5796. doi: 10.1038/srep05796.

Abstract

Senses of smells are often accompanied by simultaneous visual sensations. Previous studies have documented enhanced olfactory performance with concurrent presence of congruent color- or shape- related visual cues, and facilitated visual object perception when congruent smells are simultaneously present. These visual object-olfaction interactions suggest the existences of couplings between the olfactory pathway and the visual ventral processing stream. However, it is not known if olfaction can modulate visual motion perception, a function that is related to the visual dorsal stream. We tested this possibility by examining the influence of olfactory cues on the perceptions of ambiguous visual motion signals. We showed that, after introducing an association between motion directions and olfactory cues, olfaction could indeed bias ambiguous visual motion perceptions. Our result that olfaction modulates visual motion processing adds to the current knowledge of cross-modal interactions and implies a possible functional linkage between the olfactory system and the visual dorsal pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cues*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Smell*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult