Brief Communication abstract

Nature Neuroscience 10, 27 - 29 (2007)
Published online: 17 December 2006 | Corrected online: 4 January 2007 | doi:10.1038/nn1819

There is a Corrigendum (February 2007) associated with this Brief Communication.

Mechanisms of scent-tracking in humans

Jess Porter1, Brent Craven2, Rehan M Khan3,4, Shao-Ju Chang5, Irene Kang5, Benjamin Judkewitz3, Jason Volpe2, Gary Settles2 & Noam Sobel1,3,4,5,6


Whether mammalian scent-tracking is aided by inter-nostril comparisons is unknown. We assessed this in humans and found that (i) humans can scent-track, (ii) they improve with practice, (iii) the human nostrils sample spatially distinct regions separated by approx3.5 cm and, critically, (iv) scent-tracking is aided by inter-nostril comparisons. These findings reveal fundamental mechanisms of scent-tracking and suggest that the poor reputation of human olfaction may reflect, in part, behavioral demands rather than ultimate abilities.

  1. 299 Life Science Addition, MC 3200, Program in Biophysics, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.
  2. Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA.
  3. Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California Berkeley Berkeley, California 94720, USA.
  4. Department of Psychology, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California, 94720, USA.
  5. Program in Bioengineering, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.
  6. Department of Neurobiology, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.

Correspondence to: Jess Porter1 e-mail:

Correspondence to: Noam Sobel1,3,4,5,6 e-mail:


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