Olfactory Psychophysics

  • William S. Cain
Part of the Readings from the Encyclopedia of Neuroscience book series (REN)


Chemists in the 19th century were the first to inquire about the smallest amount of airborne material detectable by the nose. As they suspected, the human sense of smell proved very sensitive to some materials, with reliable detection of a few parts per trillion parts of air, and relatively insensitive to others. In recent times, thresholds even an order of magnitude below parts per trillion have been measured. The green bell pepper odorant, 2-methoxy-3-isobutylpyrazine, with a threshold of 0.5 ppt, provides an example (see Table 1).


Weber Fraction Isoamyl Acetate Odor Identification Odor Quality Odor Experience 

Further reading

  1. Carterette EC, Friedman MP, eds (1978): Handbook of Perception, Vol 6A, Tasting and Smelling. New York: Academic PressGoogle Scholar
  2. Engen T (1982): The Perception of Odors. New York: Academic PressGoogle Scholar
  3. Meiselman HL, Rivlin RS, eds (1985): Clinical Measurement of Taste and Smell. Boston: MacmillanGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Boston, Inc. 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • William S. Cain

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