Published on January 16, 2009 in the journal Plos One, their work confirms that olfactory preferences are not solely determined by experience or culture, but also by the structure of the odorant molecule.
It will undoubtedly enable a clearer understanding of the neuronal mechanisms coding for olfactory perception. More immediately, it may be possible to predict human olfactory preferences based on those observed in the mouse.
In humans, odors strongly influence numerous compartments of daily living, such as sexual activity, social relations or food intake. Some are pleasant, others unpleasant, and induce attraction or repulsion, respectively. This positive or negative hedonic value of an odor is very markedly affected by the experience and culture of the individual. For example, if we consider camembert cheese, its odor attracts many French people but may be repulsive to an individual from another culture.
And what if olfactory preferences involved an innate characteristic? They would then be dictated by the chemical structure and physical properties (1) of the odorant molecule. To answer this question, Nathalie Mandairon and Moustafa Bensafi, CNRS scientists in Anne Didier's team in the "Neurosciences sensorielles, comportement, cognition" laboratory measured the olfactory preferences of humans and mice in response to a series of odors (2). And indeed, although the odor "value" is predetermined by the structure of the odorant molecule, the latter still needs to contain information that will induce choice. If this is the case, then humans and mice faced with the same odor should react in the same way.
In mice, the researchers used the time spent by the animal in exploring a given odor as their index of preference. The human subjects were asked to reach their decision and attribute a "score" ranging from 1 to 9, from the most unpleasant to the most pleasant. At the same time, the duration of sniffing, which tended to be longer when the odor was more pleasant, was also recorded.
The first conclusion was that humans and mice were attracted or repelled by the same odors. Geraniol, a floral odor, was one that was preferred by both species. In contrast, guaiacol, which corresponds to a smell of smoke or burning, was one of the least appreciated. This result demonstrates the conservation of olfactory preferences between these two mammalian species. In addition, the scientists confirmed that this hedonic judgment was closely linked to the structure of the odorant molecule, which thus partly predetermines our olfactory preferences.
No-one had previously suggested so strongly that the neuronal mechanisms coding for olfactory preference were situated at the initial levels of the processing of sensory information. Until now, it had been supposed that anything related to olfactory "judgments" was mainly processed at a high level within the integrative structures of the brain. These findings thus raise hopes of a clearer understanding of these mechanisms and how they function. In the shorter term, they suggest that the behavior of a mouse might predict human olfactory preferences, which could then open the way to practical applications; for example, in the agri-food industry.(1) Structure implies a series of physicochemical characteristics that describe the odorant molecule.
(2) As odorants are pure entities, they do not necessarily evoke a food.
Julien Guillaume | alfa
Researchers invent tiny, light-powered wires to modulate brain's electrical signals
21.02.2018 | University of Chicago
The “Holy Grail” of peptide chemistry: Making peptide active agents available orally
21.02.2018 | Technische Universität München
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
21.02.2018 | Life Sciences
21.02.2018 | Life Sciences
21.02.2018 | Materials Sciences