A quantitative analysis of sniffing strategies in rats performing odor detection tasks

Physiol Behav. 1987;41(1):59-69. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(87)90131-4.


The sniffing strategies of rats performing two learned odor detection tasks were monitored with a pneumotachograph and quantitatively analyzed with respect to fifty-two characteristics. The results of this study demonstrated that the rat's sniffing varied for different odorants, different concentrations of the same odorant, and between air and odor trials. The variations resulted from changes in such descriptors as volume, duration, average flow rate, peak flow rate and sniff number. In general, a sniffing pattern began with one or two inspirations followed by alternating inspirations and expirations. Comparison of earlier and later sniffs in a bout demonstrated a growth towards both a maximum inspiratory and expiratory sniff which had the largest duration, volume, average flow rate and peak flow rate. These maximum sniffs occurred at or near the end of a bout. Although analysis of the fifty-two characteristics was quantitatively useful in determining the physiologic values and airflow patterns generated by sniffing, a single univariate response measure incorporating twelve characteristics was the best descriptor of how sniffing patterns varied with odorant stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology
  • Male
  • Odorants
  • Pentanols
  • Pyridines
  • Rats
  • Smell / physiology*


  • Pentanols
  • Pyridines
  • pyridine
  • isoamyl acetate