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Chemical senses

Dynamics of nasal irritation from pulsed homologous alcohols.


PMID 20858746

Abstract

Relatively, few studies have focused on how nasal irritation changes over time. To simulate the rhythm of natural respiration, subjects received 3-s pulses of volatile organic compounds interspersed with 3-s pulses of clean air. Each trial, subjects received 9 pulses of a chemical vapor over about 1 min. Subjects rated nasal irritation from each pulse using magnitude estimation. Within a trial, compound and concentration were fixed. Compound (ethanol, n-butanol, or n-hexanol) and concentration (4 levels for each compound) varied across trials. For all stimuli, rated irritation decreased over time (adaptation). Plots of log-rated intensity versus elapsed time were approximately linear (intensity decreased by a fixed ratio per unit time). Interestingly, the slopes of intensity versus time functions differed very little: Regardless of concentration and compound, rated irritation decreased by about 32% over the 9 pulses. The basic mechanism of short-term adaptation may be the same for the 3 alcohols studied. Regardless, these data suggest that very simple models might be able to describe some aspects of perceptual dynamics quite well.

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