Odor structure-activity relationships of carboxylic acids correspond between squirrel monkeys and humans

Am J Physiol. 1998 Jun;274(6):R1639-45. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.1998.274.6.R1639.


With use of a conditioning paradigm, the ability of four squirrel monkeys to distinguish n-valeric acid from n-forms and isoforms of other carboxylic acids (acetic acid to octanoic acid) was investigated. All four animals were clearly able to discriminate between all odor pairs tested and showed a significant negative correlation between discrimination performance and structural similarity of odorants in terms of differences in carbon chain length of the carboxylic acids. Branching of the carbon chain was also found to affect odorant quality because all animals performed better in discriminating n-valeric acid from isoforms of other carboxylic acids compared with the corresponding n-forms of these substances. With use of a triple forced-choice procedure, 10 human subjects were tested on the same tasks in parallel and showed a very similar pattern of discrimination performance compared with the squirrel monkeys. Thus the results of this study provide evidence of well-developed olfactory discrimination ability in squirrel monkeys for carboxylic acids and support the assumption that human and nonhuman primates may share common principles of odor quality perception.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Carboxylic Acids / chemistry*
  • Carboxylic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Odorants*
  • Saimiri / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Carboxylic Acids