Characterizing functional pathways of the human olfactory system

Elife. 2019 Jul 24;8:e47177. doi: 10.7554/eLife.47177.


The central processing pathways of the human olfactory system are not fully understood. The olfactory bulb projects directly to a number of cortical brain structures, but the distinct networks formed by projections from each of these structures to the rest of the brain have not been well-defined. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging and k-means clustering to parcellate human primary olfactory cortex into clusters based on whole-brain functional connectivity patterns. Resulting clusters accurately corresponded to anterior olfactory nucleus, olfactory tubercle, and frontal and temporal piriform cortices, suggesting dissociable whole-brain networks formed by the subregions of primary olfactory cortex. This result was replicated in an independent data set. We then characterized the unique functional connectivity profiles of each subregion, producing a map of the large-scale processing pathways of the human olfactory system. These results provide insight into the functional and anatomical organization of the human olfactory system.

Keywords: computational biology; functional connectivity; human; neuroscience; olfaction; primary olfactory cortex; systems biology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anatomy, Artistic
  • Atlases as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Olfactory Cortex / physiology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*