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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Aug 15, 1995; 92(17): 7864–7868.

Olfactory transduction is intrinsically noisy.


The sources of noise that limit olfactory signal detection were investigated in dissociated rat olfactory receptor cells. Near-threshold odorant-evoked currents exhibited large random fluctuation. However, similar fluctuations were observed in the absence of applied odorants when currents were induced by elevating the intracellular cyclic AMP concentration. This suggests that the fluctuations reflect noise intrinsic to the transduction mechanism, rather than the quantal nature of an odorant stimulus. For many odorants, this intrinsic noise may preclude the reliable detection of single odorant molecules.

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