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Chem Senses. 1999 Jun;24(3):263-70.

Olfactory discrimination ability for homologous series of aliphatic alcohols and aldehydes.

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Institut für Medizinische Psychologie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany.


We tested the ability of human subjects to distinguish between members of homologous series of aliphatic alcohols (ethanol to n-octanol) and aldehydes (n-butanal to n-decanal). In a forced-choice triangular test procedure 20 subjects per series were repeatedly presented with all 21 binary combinations of the seven stimuli and asked to identify the bottle containing the odd stimulus. We found (i) that as a group, the subjects performed significantly above chance level in all tasks but two with the alcohols and all tasks but four with the aldehydes, and thus were clearly able to discriminate between most of the odor pairs presented; (ii) marked interindividual differences in discrimination performance, ranging from subjects who were able to significantly distinguish between all 21 odor pairs of a series to subjects who failed to do so with the majority of tasks; and (iii) a significant negative correlation between discrimination performance and structural similarity of odorants in terms of differences in carbon chain length for both homologous series. This suggests that carbon chain length may be one of presumably several determinants of the interaction between stimulus molecule and receptor, and thus may be a molecular property affecting odor quality of aliphatic alcohols and aldehydes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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