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Mechanisms of scent-tracking in humans

Nature Neuroscience volume 10, pages 2729 (2007) | Download Citation

  • A Corrigendum to this article was published on 01 February 2007

This article has been updated

Abstract

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 3.5 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.

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  • 04 January 2007

    corrected last name

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Acknowledgements

Studies were funded by Army Research Office grant #46666-LS and by US National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders grants DC006915 and DC005958. The authors wish to thank B. Willmore for help with the video tracking algorithm and K. Scott for comments on the manuscript, as well as Arak Elite.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. 299 Life Science Addition, MC 3200, Program in Biophysics, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.

    • Jess Porter
    •  & Noam Sobel
  2. Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA.

    • Brent Craven
    • , Jason Volpe
    •  & Gary Settles
  3. Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California Berkeley Berkeley, California 94720, USA.

    • Rehan M Khan
    • , Benjamin Judkewitz
    •  & Noam Sobel
  4. Department of Psychology, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California, 94720, USA.

    • Rehan M Khan
    •  & Noam Sobel
  5. Program in Bioengineering, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.

    • Shao-Ju Chang
    • , Irene Kang
    •  & Noam Sobel
  6. Department of Neurobiology, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.

    • Noam Sobel

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Jess Porter or Noam Sobel.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Fig. 1

    An example dynamic power spectra and tracking path.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Methods

Videos

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Video 1

    Sample trial.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn1819

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