Function follows form: ecological constraints on odor codes and olfactory percepts

Jay A. Gottfried*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Sensory system function has evolved to meet the biological needs of organisms, but it is less often regarded that sensory system form has by necessity evolved to contend with the stimulus. For an olfactory system extracting meaningful information from natural scents, the ecological milieu presents unique problems. Recent studies provide new insights into the perceptual and neural mechanisms underlying how odorant elements are assembled into odor wholes, how odor percepts are reconstructed from degraded inputs, and how learning and experience sculpt olfactory categorical perception. These data show that spatial ensemble activity patterns in piriform cortex are closely linked to the perceptual meaning and identity of odor objects, substantiating theoretical models that emphasize the importance of distributed templates for the perception, discrimination, and recall of olfactory quality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)422-429
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent opinion in neurobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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