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Percept Psychophys. 1995 Oct;57(7):1002-11.

Odor discrimination and recognition memory as a function of familiarization.

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Université Claude-Bernard Lyon 1, Laboratoire de Physiologie Neurosensorielle, Villeurbanne, France.


The role of olfactory familiarization in short-term recognition of odors was investigated. Subjects were asked to make qualitative similarity judgments regarding either identical or dissimilar odors delivered in pairs. Except for control groups, subjects got familiarized with either the first (target) or the second (distractor) or both odors from a pair. Groups also differed according to the number of familiarization sessions--one, two, or three--taking place prior to the discrimination judgments. There was no significant influence of familiarization on correct recognition scores for pairs of identical odors. The most salient finding was a marked decrease of false alarms as a function of the number of familiarization sessions, which evidenced a positive effect of familiarization on discrimination for pairs of dissimilar odors. These judgments were not dependent on an intensity criterion. False alarms did not vary according to whether subjects had been familiarized with the target or the distractor or both odors from a pair. A positive correlation found between discrimination performances and the number of odors correctly remembered as being presented during familiarization suggested that familiarization resulted in long-term storing of memory traces for familiarized odors. Since familiarization was effective despite conditions unfavorable to the use of semantic encoding, the results argue in favor of a predominantly perceptual encoding of odors in the investigated task.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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