The perceptual logic of smell

Lavi Secundo, Kobi Snitz, Noam Sobel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Mammals have ~1000 different olfactory receptor subtypes, each responding to a number of different odorants, and each odorant activating a number of different receptor subtypes. These molecular and anatomical underpinnings of olfaction imply a perceptual structure of very high dimensionality that relies on combinatorial coding. In contrast to this expectation, the study of olfactory perception reveals a structure of much lower dimensionality. Moreover, a low-dimensionality approach to olfaction enabled derivation of perception-based structural metrics for smell. These metrics provided meaningful predictions of odorant-induced neural activity and perception from odorant structure alone. Based on this low functional dimensionality, we speculate that olfaction likely does not functionally rely on 1000 different receptor subtypes, and their persistence in evolution may imply that they have additional roles in non-olfactory functions such as in guidance of embryogenesis and development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-115
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Opinion in Neurobiology
Volume25
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience

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