The neural mechanism of hedonic processing and judgment of pleasant odors: An activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis

Neuropsychology. 2016 Nov;30(8):970-979. doi: 10.1037/neu0000292. Epub 2016 May 19.


Objective: Pleasure is essential to normal healthy life. Olfaction, as 1 of the neurobehavioral probes of hedonic capacity, has a unique advantage compared to other sensory modalities. However, it is unclear how olfactory hedonic information is processed in the brain. This study aimed to investigate olfactory hedonic processing in the human brain.

Method: We conducted an activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis on 16 functional imaging studies that examined brain activation in olfactory hedonic processing-related tasks in healthy adults.

Results: The results show that there is a core olfactory hedonic processing network, which consists of the bilateral parahippocampal gyrus/amygdala (BA34), the left middle frontal gyrus (BA6), the right middle frontal gyrus/lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC; BA10), the bilateral cingulate gyrus (BA32), the right lentiform nucleus/lateral globus pallidus, the right medial frontal gyrus/medial OFC (BA11), the left superior frontal gyrus (BA10), and the right insula (BA13). Moreover, our findings highlight that the right hemisphere is predominant in explicit odor hedonic judgment. Finally, the results indicate that there are significant differences in brain activation for hedonic judgment and passive smelling.

Conclusion: These results support the hypothesis that the OFC plays a key role in explicit hedonic judgment. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Webcast

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Odorants*
  • Smell / physiology*