Information about space from time: how mammals navigate the odour landscape


Sensory input across modalities is highly dynamic, continuously confronting the brain with the task of making sense of the external world. Olfaction is a key sense that many species depend on for survival, for example to locate food sources and mating partners or to avoid encountering predators. In the absence of visual cues, olfactory cues are especially useful, as they provide information over a large range of distances. Natural odours form temporally complex plumes that show rapid fluctuations in odour concentration carrying information about the location of an odour source. This review focuses on how primarily mammals use this spatial information from olfactory cues to navigate their environment. I highlight progress made on the physical description of dynamically fluctuating odours, behavioural paradigms to investigate odour-guided navigation and review initial findings on the underlying neural mechanisms that allow mammals to extract spatial information from the dynamic odour landscape.

Journal details

Journal Neuroforum
Volume 28
Issue number 3
Pages 159-168
Available online
Publication date