Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Hum Brain Mapp. 2002 Sep;17(1):17-27.

Odorant differentiated pattern of cerebral activation: comparison of acetone and vanillin.

Author information

  • 1Division of Human Brain Research, Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.


Whether different odorous compounds (odorants) are processed by different cerebral circuits is presently unknown. A first step to address this complicated issue is to investigate how the cerebral regions mediating signals from olfactory (i.e., unimodal) odorants, differ from those mediating the olfactory + trigeminal (i.e., bimodal) odorants. [15O]-H2O-PET scans were conducted in 12 healthy females during three separate conditions: birhinal, passive smelling of: 1) the unimodal odorant vanillin; 2) the bimodal odorant acetone; and 3) odorless air. Significant activations were calculated contrasting vanillin to air, acetone to air, and deactivations, running these contrasts in the opposite direction. Smelling of vanillin activated bilaterally the amygdala and piriform cortex. These regions were only engaged slightly by acetone. Instead, strong activations were found in the anterior and central insula and claustrum, the posterior portion of anterior cingulate, the somatosensory cortex (SI for face), cerebellum, ventral medial (VMPo) and dorsal medial (MDvc) thalamus, the lateral hypothalamus, and pons/medulla. In parallel, the somatosensory (SI, below central representation of face), secondary visual and auditory cortices, as well as the supplementary motor area and the parahippocampal gyri were deactivated. No deactivations were observed with vanillin, although the odor components of acetone and vanillin were rated similarly intense (75 +/- 17 mm vs. 61 +/- 22 mm, NS). The differentiated pattern of cerebral activation during odorant perception seems to be dependent on the signal transducing cranial nerves involved. In contrast to vanillin, which solely activates the olfactory cortex, acetone engages predominantly trigeminal projections from the nasal mucosa. Acetone's limited activation of the olfactory cortex may result from a cross-modal interaction, with inhibition of acetone's odor component by its trigeminal component.

Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Wiley
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk