Roundup

Scoping Out Smell

  • Published12 Dec 2016
  • Reviewed12 Dec 2016
  • Author Michael W. Richardson
  • Source BrainFacts/SfN
Olfactory bulbs

Image of the Week: Seeing Your Sense of Smell

This visage captures the parts of the nose and brain responsible for interpreting smell.

Memi, et al. Journal of Neuroscience, 2013.
Olfactory bulbs
Olfactory bulbs from zebrafish.

Image of the Week: Smells Shape the Brain

Sensory information like scents can alter the brain in early development.


Braubach, et al. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2013.
Olfactory bulbs from zebrafish.
This image shows two types of neurons (pictured in red) — located in the medial amygdala of a mouse — which are involved in the emotional processing of odor information. While both types receive scent information, they communicate this information to different cells — which is reflected in their projections. The cell on the top-left relays information to the hypothalamus some distance away, a brain region important in reproductive and defense behaviors. The bottom-right cell communicates with nearby neurons to dampen the signals they send. Together, these cells help the animal to know whether to prepare for courtship or to flee for safety.

Image of the Week: Processing Smell

Odor information travels through the amygdala, where it helps to influence such behaviors as reproduction and defense.

Keshavarzi, et al. Journal of Neuroscience, 2014.
This image shows two types of neurons (pictured in red) — located in the medial amygdala of a mouse — which are involved in the emotional processing of odor information. While both types receive scent information, they communicate this information to different cells — which is reflected in their projections. The cell on the top-left relays information to the hypothalamus some distance away, a brain region important in reproductive and defense behaviors. The bottom-right cell communicates with nearby neurons to dampen the signals they send. Together, these cells help the animal to know whether to prepare for courtship or to flee for safety.
The Mushroom Body

Image of the Week: Pavlov’s Flies

The brain links smells and sensations to create lasting memories.

Campbell, et al. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2013.
The Mushroom Body
Jortner, et al. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2007.

Image of the Week: Radial Branches

Scientists look to insects for clues about how sensory information is processed in the brain.

Jortner, et al. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2007.
Jortner, et al. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2007.
The image shows a collage of four types of lateral horn neurons (color) and an olfactory projection neuron (white) superimposed on the brain of a locust.

Image of the Week: Sense of Smell in a Locust Brain

How does the brain track smells? Scientists use the olfactory system in insects to study how the brain responds to and processes different odors.

The Journal of Neuroscience, 13 June 2012, 32(24):8138-8148; doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1066-12.2012
The image shows a collage of four types of lateral horn neurons (color) and an olfactory projection neuron (white) superimposed on the brain of a locust.

Though your sense of smell is much less powerful than your pet dog’s abilities, researchers have shown that the human brain can recognize at least one trillion different smells! That’s thanks to a complex web of nerve cells and brain circuits called the olfactory system. Check out some of our favorite images of the olfactory system in action, and learn more about how the brain processes smells in this roundup.


Browse through the images and their descriptions. Click on the link in each caption to read the full articles.

See more images in our archive:Image of the Week

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