Active sensing in a dynamic olfactory world


This Perspective highlights the shift from the classic picture of olfaction as slow and static to a view in which dynamics play a critical role at many levels of sensing and behavior. Olfaction is now increasingly seen as a “wide-bandwidth temporal sense” (Ackels et al., 2021; Nagel et al., 2015). A parallel transition is occurring in odor-guided robot navigation, where it has been discovered that sensors can access temporal cues useful for navigation (Schmuker et al., 2016). We are only beginning to understand the implications of this paradigm-shift on our view of olfactory and olfacto-motor circuits. Below we review insights into the information encoded in turbulent odor plumes and shine light on how animals could access this information. We suggest that a key challenge for olfactory neuroscience is to re-interpret work based on static stimuli in the context of natural odor dynamics and actively exploring animals.

Journal details

Volume 50
Issue number 1
Pages 1-6
Available online
Publication date