Olfactory Perception in Relation to the Physicochemical Odor Space
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Description: A growing body of research aims at solving what is often referred to as the stimu-lus-percept problem in olfactory perception. Although computational efforts have made it possible to predict perceptual impressions from the physicochemical space of odors, studies with large psychophysical data sets from non-experts remain scarce. Following previous approaches, we developed a physicochemical odor space using 4,094 molecular descriptors of 1,389 odor mole-cules. For 20 of these odors, we examined associations with perceived pleasantness, intensity, odor quality and detection threshold, obtained from a dataset of 2,000 naïve participants. Our results show significant differences in perceptual ratings, and we were able to replicate previous findings on the association between perceptual ratings and the first dimensions of the physico-chemical odor space. However, the present analyses also revealed striking interindividual varia-tions in perceived pleasantness and intensity. Additionally, interactions between pleasantness, intensity, and olfactory and trigeminal qualitative dimensions were found. Our results support previous findings on the relation between structure and perception on the group level in our sam-ple of non-expert raters. Nevertheless, human olfactory perception is no analytic process of mole-cule detection alone. Therefore, to gain an understanding of stimulus-percept relationship in the individual, future studies should shift towards a more holistic view that takes into account the influences of context, experience and other interpersonal characteristics. Keywords: physicochemical odor space; olfactory perception; molecule structure