Houston, TX 77005
3:00 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, 2013
On Campus | Alumni
Olfactory sensing is ubiquitous across animals and important for survival. Yet, its characteristics, mechanisms, and functions in humans remain not well understood. In this dissertation, I present four studies on human olfactory perception. Study I investigates the impact of short-term exposures to an odorant on long-term olfactory learning and habituation, while Study II examines human ability to localize smells; Study III probes visual-olfactory integration of object representations, and Study IV explores the role of olfaction in sensing nutrients. Several conclusions are drawn from these studies. First, brief intermittent exposures to even a barely detectable odorant lead to long-term incremental odor-specific habituation. Second, humans localize smells based on gradient cues between the nostrils. Third, there is a within-hemispheric advantage in the integration of visual-olfactory object representations. Fourth, olfaction partakes in nutrient-sensing and facilitates the detection of food. Some broader implications of our findings are discussed.