Pouget theorizes that mitral cells, shown here in yellow, compare olfactory predictions with reality. Credit: Charles Greer


Deciphering Scent: How We Untangle the Tapestry of Odors

A probabilistic approach helps to explain how the brain might identify individual odors in an environment with multiple smells.

BY:Simons Collaboration on the Global Brain

Walk into a diner around breakfast time, and you’re likely to be hit with an array of enticing odors — steaming coffee, freshly baked muffins, bacon sizzling on the grill. Given that each of these smells is made up of a mix of different volatile compounds all hitting our olfactory system at the same time, how does our brain discern the identity of the different foods?

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