Neural correlates of olfactory change detection

Merav Sabri, Alexander J. Radnovich, Tie Q. Li, David A. Kareken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Scopus citations


Detecting changes in a stream of sensory information is vital to animals and humans. While there have been several studies of automatic change detection in various sensory modalities, olfactory change detection is largely unstudied. We investigated brain regions responsive to both passive and active detection of olfactory change using fMRI. Nine right-handed healthy, normosmic subjects (five men) were scanned in two conditions while breathing in synchrony with a metronome. In one condition, subjects mentally counted infrequent odors (Attend condition), whereas in the other condition, subjects' attention was directed elsewhere as they counted auditory tones (Ignore condition). Odors were delivered via a nasal cannula using a computer-controlled air-dilution olfactometer. Infrequently occurring olfactory stimuli evoked significant (P <. 05, corrected) activity in the subgenual cingulate and in central posterior orbitofrontal cortex, but only in the Ignore condition, as confirmed by direct comparison of the Ignore session with the Attend session (P <. 05, corrected). Subgenual cingulate and posterior orbital cortex may therefore play a role in detecting discrepant olfactory events while attention is otherwise engaged in another sensory modality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)969-974
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 15 2005


  • fMRI
  • Multimodal
  • Olfactory change detection
  • Olfactory stimulation
  • Selective attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology

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