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On the trigeminal percept of androstenone and its implications on the rate of specific anosmia.

Journal of neurobiology (2006-10-03)
Julie A Boyle, Johan N Lundström, Michael Knecht, Marilyn Jones-Gotman, Benoist Schaal, Thomas Hummel

Specific anosmia is a term that describes an inability to perceive a particular odorant in the context of an otherwise normal olfactory acuity. The most common example, for the odor of androstenone, has been ascribed a prevalence ranging from 2 to 45%. In two experiments we sought to determine whether this wide range could be explained by the difference in steroid concentrations used, and by the degree to which the trigeminal system contributes to perception of androstenone. Experiment 1 demonstrated that high concentrations of androstenone stimulated the trigeminal system, as indicated by electrophysiological recordings. Experiment 2 demonstrated that conscious detection of androstenone is possible based solely on the trigeminal system. Interestingly, detection seems to interact with olfactory acuity in that subjects with a low olfactory sensitivity to androstenone were better able to detect its trigeminal component. The agreement between conscious experience and behavioral discrimination was not well calibrated, in that subjects demonstrated a clear overconfidence in their abilities. Altogether, the current study suggests that androstenone is an odorant that produces a concentration-dependent degree of trigeminal stimulation. This trigeminal component explains the diversity of the reported prevalence of specific anosmia for androstenone and might have implications on future use of specific anosmia as a tool to understand odor processing.

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