News FocusOLFACTION

Smell's Course Is Predetermined

Science  09 Nov 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5545, pp. 1269-1271
DOI: 10.1126/science.294.5545.1269

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Summary

Two papers in the 8 November issue of Nature provide new insights into how the brain is structured for sorting out smells. In one study, researchers provide the first glimpse of how the olfactory cortex, the part of the brain that processes odors, organizes incoming signals. In separate work, another team revealed how links form between odor-responsive neurons and the brain. Both papers suggest that the olfactory system is highly genetically programmed, or hardwired, perhaps more so than vision and other sensory systems, say olfaction researchers. And that may help smells to directly trigger instinctual behavior, some speculate.