UC San Diego
Odor detection by humans of lineal aliphatic aldehydes and helional as gauged by dose-response functions
- Author(s): Cometto-Muniz, J. Enrique
- Abraham, Michael H
- et al.
We have measured concentration-detection (i.e., psychometric) functions to determine the odor detectability of homologous aliphatic aldehydes (propanal, butanal, hexanal, octanal, and nonanal) and helional. Subjects (16≤n≤18) used a three-alternative forced-choice procedure against carbon-filtered air (blanks), under an ascending concentration approach. Generation, delivery, and control of each vapor were achieved via an 8-station vapor delivery device. Gas chromatography served to quantify the concentrations presented. Group and individual functions were modeled by a sigmoid (logistic) equation. Odor detection thresholds (ODTs) were defined as the concentration producing a detectability (P) half-way (P=0.5) between chance (P=0.0) and perfect detection (P=1.0). ODTs decreased with carbon chain length: 2.0, 0.46, 0.33, and 0.17 ppb, respectively, from propanal to octanal, but the threshold increased for nonanal (0.53 ppb), revealing maximum sensitivity for the 8-carbon member. The strong olfactory-receptor ligands octanal and helional (0.14 ppb) showed the lowest thresholds. ODTs fell at the lower end of previously reported values. Inter-individual variability (ODT ratios) amounted to a factor ranging from 10 to 50, lower than typically reported, and was highest for octanal and hexanal. The behavioral dose-response functions emerge at concentrations 2 to 5 orders of magnitude lower than those required for functions tracing the activation of specific human olfactory receptors by the same aldehydes in cell/molecular studies, after all functions were expressed as vapor concentrations.