Olfactory Orientation and Navigation in Humans


Although predicted by theory, there is no direct evidence that an animal can define an arbitrary location in space as a coordinate location on an odor grid. Here we show that humans can do so. Using a spatial match-to-sample procedure, humans were led to a random location within a room diffused with two odors. After brief sampling and spatial disorientation, they had to return to this location. Over three conditions, participants had access to different sensory stimuli: olfactory only, visual only, and a final control condition with no olfactory, visual, or auditory stimuli. Humans located the target with higher accuracy in the olfaction-only condition than in the control condition and showed higher accuracy than chance. Thus a mechanism long proposed for the homing pigeon, the ability to define a location on a map constructed from chemical stimuli, may also be a navigational mechanism used by humans.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0129387

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@inproceedings{Jacobs2015OlfactoryOA, title={Olfactory Orientation and Navigation in Humans}, author={Lucia F Jacobs and Jennifer Arter and Amy Cook and Frank J. Sulloway and Matthieu Louis}, booktitle={PloS one}, year={2015} }