Time Course of Odor Categorization Processing

Cereb Cortex Commun. 2021 Oct 5;2(4):tgab058. doi: 10.1093/texcom/tgab058. eCollection 2021.


The brain's mechanisms for categorizing different odors have long been a research focus. Previous studies suggest that odor categorization may involve multiple neurological processes within the brain with temporal and spatial neuronal activation. However, there is limited evidence regarding temporally mediated mechanisms in humans, especially millisecond odor processing. Such mechanisms may be important because different brain areas may play different roles at a particular activation time during sensory processing. Here, we focused on how the brain categorizes odors at specific time intervals. Using multivariate electroencephalography (EEG) analysis, we found that similarly perceived odors induced similar EEG signals during 50-100, 150-200, and 350-400 ms at the theta frequency. We also found significant activation at 100-150 and 350-400 ms at the gamma frequency. At these two frequencies, significant activation was observed in some olfactory-associated areas, including the orbitofrontal cortex. Our findings provide essential evidence that specific periods may be related to odor quality processing during central olfactory processing.

Keywords: EEG; gamma; odor categorizing; odor quality; olfactory processing; olfactory system; theta; time course.