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The smell map: is there a commonality of odour perception?

Lookup NU author(s): Sean Carrie, Dr Jack Scannell, Dr Peter Dawes


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The normal perception of odour quality is poorly understood, so formulating meaningful tests of olfaction is difficult. While tests of odour discrimination and odour detection threshold have helped quantify olfactory dysfunction, there are not yet predictive relationships between sensitivity to particular odours and particular forms of olfactory dysfunction. Using 11 commonly encountered odours, 20 normosmics performed similarity ratings of odour pairs. Multidimensional scaling, a standard behavioural sciences data analysis method, was used to explore the perceptual relationships between the odours based on their pair-wise similarity ratings. Smell maps were created for each individual as was a common or archetypal map which indicated a commonality in individuals' odour perception, far greater than chance alone (P < 10(-6)). A preliminary analysis of four hyposmics suggests that they do not conform to the normosmic archetype. Future studies assessing the relationship between odours in the archetype should improve the selection of odours to be included in tests of odour discrimination.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Carrie S, Scannell JW, Dawes PJD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Clinical Otolaryngology

Year: 1999

Volume: 24

Issue: 3

Pages: 184-189

ISSN (print): 1749-4478

ISSN (electronic): 1749-4486

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2273.1999.00242.x


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