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Methods in smell perception research

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In olfaction the absolute and differential threshold for odor perception are explored using the following methods:

The stimuli in the past was usually provided by a Zwaardemaker olfractometer, a type of glass tube by which an odorant was introduced into the nose. The amount of odour being calibrated by the length of the tube. This was a device developed in 1888 by the Dutch physiologist, Hendrick Zwaardemaker who also developed the Zwaardemaker smell system.

The concentrations of odorant in Germany are defined by the “Olfaktometrie” since the 1970’s. This is the standard method for defining the sensory threshold of odours on the basis of dilutions of concentrated odour loaded assays.


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Doty, R.L. (1991) Psychophysical measurement of odor perception in humans. In Laing, D.G., Doty, R.L. and Breipohl, W. (eds), The Human Sense of Smell. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, pp. 95–151.

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