Perceptual Analysis of Complex Chemical Signals by Humans

  • D. G. Laing
  • B. A. Livermore


Odors encountered during the daily activities of humans and animals, including those from flowers, sweat, excrement and cooking, are almost always complex arrays consisting of dozens, often hundreds, of odorous constituents. Rarely is an odor due to a single chemical. Nevertheless, despite their chemical complexity, commonly encountered odorants are usually identified within a second or two with the aid of a few sniffs. The sense of smell, therefore, can detect, analyze, discriminate and identify a complex odorant in a very short space of time, an action which as yet cannot be matched by any instrument.


Ethyl Butyrate Amyl Acetate Test Odorant Olfactory Memory Cinnamic Aldehyde 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bell, G.A., Laing, D.G., and Panhuber, H., 1987, Odor mixture suppression: Evidence for a peripheral mechanism in human and rat, Brain Res., 426: 8–18.Google Scholar
  2. Getchell, T.V., Margolis F.L., and Getchell, M.L., 1984, Perireceptor and receptor events in vertebrate olfaction Prog. Neurobiol., 23: 317–345.Google Scholar
  3. Laing, D.G., 1988, Relationship between the differential adsorption of odorants by the olfactory mucus and their perception in mixtures, Chem. Senses, 13: 463–471.Google Scholar
  4. Laing, D.G., and Francis, G.W., 1989, The capacity of humans to identify odors in mixtures,Physiol. Behay., 46: 809–814.Google Scholar
  5. Nursten, H.E., 1979, Why flavour research? How far have we come since 1975? in: “Progress in Flavour Research.” D.G. Land and H.E. Nursten, eds., Applied Science Publishers, London.Google Scholar
  6. Rumbo, E., 1983, Differences between single cell responses to different components of the sex pheromone in males of the lightbrown apple moth ( Epiphyas postuittana ), Physiol. Entomol., 8: 195–201.Google Scholar
  7. Shepherd, G.M., 1972, Synaptic organization of the mammalian olfactory bulb, Physiol. Rev. 52: 864–917.Google Scholar
  8. Skeen, L.C., 1977, Odor-induced patterns of deoxyglucose consumption in the olfactory bulb of the tree shrew, Tupaia glis, Brain Res., 124: 147–153.Google Scholar
  9. Smith, A.B., Belcher, A.M., Epple, G., Jurs, P.C. and Lavine, B., 1985, Computerised pattern recognition: A new technique for the analysis of chemical communication, Science, 228: 175–177.Google Scholar
  10. Stewart, W.B., Kauer, J.S. and Shepherd, G.M., 1979, Functional organization of rat olfactory bulb analysed by the 2-deoxyglucose technique, J. Comp. Neurol., 185: 715–734.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. G. Laing
    • 1
  • B. A. Livermore
    • 2
  1. 1.Sensory Research CentreCSIRONorth RydeAustralia
  2. 2.School of Behavioural SciencesMacquarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia

Personalised recommendations