Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 212, Issue 2, pp 305–314 | Cite as

Background sound modulates the performance of odor discrimination task

  • Han-Seok Seo
  • Volker Gudziol
  • Antje Hähner
  • Thomas Hummel
Research Article


Even though we often perceive odors in the presence of various background sounds, surprisingly little is known about the effects of background sound on odor perception. This study aimed to investigate the question whether background sound can modulate performance in an odor discrimination task. In Experiment 1, participants were asked to perform the odor discrimination task while listening to either background noise (e.g., verbal or non-verbal noise) or no additional sound (i.e., silent condition). Participants’ performance in the odor discrimination task was significantly deteriorated in the presence of background noise compared with in the silent condition. Rather, the detrimental effect of verbal noise on the task performance was significantly higher than that of non-verbal noise. In Experiment 2, participants were asked to conduct the odor discrimination task while listening to either background music (Mozart’s sonata for two pianos in D major, K448) or no additional sound (silent condition). Background music relative to silent condition did not significantly alter the task performance. In conclusion, our findings provide new empirical evidence that background sound modulates the performance in an odor discrimination task.


Auditory–olfactory integration Background noise Background music Odor discrimination task Task performance 



This research was supported by a grant from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique to T.H. (European associated laboratory; EAL 549, CNRS-TUD).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Han-Seok Seo
    • 1
  • Volker Gudziol
    • 1
  • Antje Hähner
    • 1
  • Thomas Hummel
    • 1
  1. 1.Smell and Taste Clinic, Department of OtorhinolaryngologyUniversity of Dresden Medical SchoolDresdenGermany

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