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Trigeminal Response to Odors

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The trigeminal nerve, or cranial nerve V, is a somatic sensory nerve, primarily sensitive to mechanical and thermal stimulation, but the branches innervating the nasal and oral cavities and the cornea also include chemosensitive fibers. Those of the nasal cavity and cornea are sensitive to airborne chemicals. They have an important function as the sensory input triggering protective reflexes—respiratory, secretory, and cardiovascular—in response to high concentrations of irritating vapors. However, they also respond to low, nonirritating concentrations of the same chemicals and to other chemicals lacking any irritant qualities. Trigeminal input can thus contribute to the sense of smell, either directly or by influencing input from olfactory (cranial nerve I) receptors.


  • Nasal Cavity
  • Free Nerve Ending
  • Olfactory Sensation
  • Trigeminal Stimulation
  • Airborne Chemical

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Further reading

  • Cain WS, Murphy CL (1980): Interaction between chemoreceptive modalities of odor and irritation. Nature 284:255–257

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  • Doty RL, Brugger WE, Jurs PC, Orndorff MA, Snyder PJ, Lowry LD (1978): Intranasal trigeminal stimulation from odorous volatiles: Psychometric response from anosmic and normal humans. Physiol Behav 20:175–185

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  • Silver WL, Maruniak JA (1981): Trigeminal chemoreception in the nasal and oral cavities. Chem Senses 6:295–305

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  • Silver WL, Mason JR, Marshall DA, Maruniak JA (1985): Rat trigeminal, olfactory and taste responses after capsiacin desensitization. Brain Res, 333:45–54

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  • Tucker D (1971): Nonolfactory responses from the nasal cavity: Jacobson’s organ and the trigeminal system. In: Handbook of Sensory Physiology, IV:Pt 1, Olfaction. Beidler LM, ed. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, pp 151–181

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© 1988 Birkhäuser Boston, Inc.

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Meredith, M. (1988). Trigeminal Response to Odors. In: Sensory Systems: II. Readings from the Encyclopedia of Neuroscience . Birkhäuser Boston.

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  • Publisher Name: Birkhäuser Boston

  • Print ISBN: 978-0-8176-3396-7

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-4684-6760-4

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