Encoding smells in the Brain: A must for recreation?
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Date posted: 10/01/2009
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In early January 2008, a Rice University study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that socioemotional meanings, including sexual ones, are conveyed in human sweat.

Denise Chen, assistant professor of psychology at Rice, looked at how the brains of female volunteers processed and encoded the smell of sexual sweat from men. The results of the experiment indicated the brain recognises chemosensory communication, including human sexual sweat.

The experiment directly studied natural human sexual sweat using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Nineteen healthy female subjects inhaled olfactory stimuli from four sources, one of which was sweat gathered from sexually aroused males.

The research showed that several parts of the brain are involved in processing the emotional value of the olfactory information. These include the right fusiform region, the right orbitofrontal cortex and the right hypothalamus.

"With the exception of the hypothalamus, neither the orbitofrontal cortex nor the fusiform region is considered to be associated with sexual motivation and behaviour," Chen said. "Our results imply that the chemosensory information from natural human sexual sweat is encoded more holistically in the brain rather than specifically for its sexual quality."

Bearing this information in mind, evidence such as this starts to point towards the absolute necessity of multisensory interfaces including an ability to recreate human bodily scents and pheromones, in addition to the standard ? set? smells that have been trialled to date in devices such as scent collar, scent dome, and others. Rather than having set scent reservoirs and ?printing? them into the air as required, for full social interaction in tele-mediated environments, a full range of chemosensory information may also be required in order to assuage the realness of the simulation.

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