Olfactory Localization: the ‘what’ and ‘where’ pathways in Human Olfaction

Elizabeth Bremner : Psychology

Mentor: Dr. Noam Sobel, Psychology

Localization of biologically relevant stimuli in the world is a basic feature of sensory systems and is well studied for visual and auditory stimuli. It is well known that mammals are very sensitive to odors and can trace them to their sources, but it is not well studied nor understood whether this localization can be accomplished egocentrically—that is, with the head kept stationary. For her Senior Honors Thesis in Psychology, Elizabeth will evaluate the abilities of humans to egocentrically pinpoint odor sources in space. She will first address the behavioral question of whether humans can spatially localize different odors in a psychophysical experiment. She will then conduct a neuroimaging experiment using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to understand the neural substrates underlying this activity. Elizabeth hopes that understanding how humans localize odors and the neural substrates subserving this ability will contribute to the current development of a device that will locate land mines through odor-sensing machinery.