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J Neurophysiol. 2005 Jun;93(6):3434-41. Epub 2005 Feb 2.

Color of scents: chromatic stimuli modulate odor responses in the human brain.

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  • 1Oxford Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DU, UK.


Color has a profound effect on the perception of odors. For example, strawberry-flavored drinks smell more pleasant when colored red than green and descriptions of the "nose" of a wine are dramatically influenced by its color. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we demonstrate a neurophysiological correlate of these cross-modal visual influences on olfactory perception. Subjects were scanned while exposed either to odors or colors in isolation or to color-odor combinations that were rated on the basis of how well they were perceived to match. Activity in caudal regions of the orbitofrontal cortex and in the insular cortex increased progressively with the perceived congruency of the odor-color pairs. These findings demonstrate the neuronal correlates of olfactory response modulation by color cues in brain areas previously identified as encoding the hedonic value of smells.

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