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Physiol Behav. 1998 Dec 1;65(3):397-407.

Analysis of interaction in binary odorant mixtures.

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  • Department of Entomology, Ohio State University, Columbus 433210-1220, USA. smith.210@osu.edu


An understanding of the olfactory system of any animal must account for how odor mixtures are perceived and processed. The present experiments apply associationist models to the study of how elements are processed in binary odorant mixtures. Using experimental designs for Proboscis Extension Conditioning of honey bees, I show that learning about a pure odorant element is frequently affected by its occurrence in a mixture with a second odorant. Presence of a background odor when an odorant is associated with sucrose reinforcement decreases the rate and/or asymptotic level of associative strength that accumulates to that odorant. This interaction is in part due to synthetic qualities that arise in sensory transduction and initial processing. In addition, it involves an attention-like processing system like that involved in overshadowing. Therefore, a model that includes representations of the component and configural qualities of odorants in mixtures is needed to provide a more complete account of learning about odor mixtures.

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