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Nat Neurosci. 2007 Jan;10(1):27-9. Epub 2006 Dec 17.

Mechanisms of scent-tracking in humans.

Author information

299 Life Science Addition, MC 3200, Program in Biophysics, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.

Erratum in

  • Nat Neurosci. 2007 Feb;10(2):263. Judkewicz, Benjamin [corrected to Judkewitz, Benjamin].


Whether mammalian scent-tracking is aided by inter-nostril comparisons is unknown. We assessed this in humans and found that (i) humans can scent-track, (ii) they improve with practice, (iii) the human nostrils sample spatially distinct regions separated by approximately 3.5 cm and, critically, (iv) scent-tracking is aided by inter-nostril comparisons. These findings reveal fundamental mechanisms of scent-tracking and suggest that the poor reputation of human olfaction may reflect, in part, behavioral demands rather than ultimate abilities.

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