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Chem Senses. 2004 Mar;29(3):199-208.

Effects of perceived and imagined odors on taste detection.

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McGill University, Montreal Neurological Institute, Montreal, Qu├ębec, Canada.


We assessed the influence of different odors on detection of a sweet tastant, and the ability of imagined odors to elicit the same effects as perceived odors on taste perception. The tastant used was sucrose, and the two odorants were strawberry and ham. In the first experiment, participants either smelled or imagined one of two odors during taste detection tasks (between-subject design), whereas in the second one, subjects completed both the odor imagery and perception conditions with taste detection tasks (within-subject design). The effect was odorant-specific: detection of sucrose was significantly better when subjects smelled strawberry than when they smelled ham. Furthermore, imagined odors influenced taste perception in the same way as did perceived odors. We concluded that the odor-specific effect on taste perception is an authentic perceptual phenomenon. Our results also support the notion that odor-induced changes in taste perception are mediated centrally. Finally, our findings are in agreement with reports supporting the existence of odor imagery.

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