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Olfactory adaptation

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Olfactory adaptation (odor adaptation or odour adaptation) is where there is habituation to a smell, so there is reduced sensitivity to an odorant after prolonged exposure to it. It is why people become insensitive to their body odour and why sewer workers become oblivious of the smell quite quickly after coming to work.

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References & BibliographyEdit

Key textsEdit



  • Cain, W.S. and Engen, T. (1969) Olfactory adaptation and the scaling of odor intensity. In Pfaffmann, C. (ed.), Olfaction and Taste. Rockefeller University Press, New York.
  • Cain, W.S. and Polak, E.H. (1992) Olfactory adaptation as an aspect of odor similarity. Chem. Senses, 17, 481–491.Full Text
  • Cheesman, G.H. and Mayne, S. (1953) The influence of adaptation on absolute threshold measurements of olfactory stimuli. Quart. J. Exp. Psychol., 5, 22–30.
  • Cometto-Muñiz, E.C. and Cain, W.S. (1995) Olfactory adaptation. In Doty, R.L. (ed.), Handbook of Olfaction and Gustation. New York, Marcel Dekker, pp. 257–282.
  • Köster, E.P. (1965) Adaptation, recovery, and specificity of olfactory receptors. Rev. Laryngol. (Suppl.), 880–894.
  • Köster, E.P. (1971) Adaptation and cross-adaptation in olfaction. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Utrecht.
  • Köster, E.P. and de Wijk, R.A. (1991) Olfactory Adaptation. In Laing, D.G., Doty, R.L. and Breipohl, W. (eds), The Human Sense of Smell. Berlin, Springer-Verlag, pp. 199–215.
  • Moncrief, R.W. (1956) Olfactory adaptation and odour likeness. J. Physiol., 133, 301–316.

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