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Odorous and pungent attributes of mixed and unmixed odorants

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In order to explore functional properties of the olfactory and common chemical senses as well as their relation to the total nasal sensation experienced, various concentrations of two pungent odorants were presented alone and in the presence of different backgrounds of the other irritant. Stimuli comprised formaldehyde (at 1.0, 3.5, 6.9, and 16.7 ppm), ammonia (at 210, 776, 1,172, and 1,716 ppm), and their 16 possible binary mixtures. Subjects were asked to estimate the total nasal perceived intensity, and then to assess the olfactory (odor) and common chemical (pungency) attributes of the evoked sensations. The results showed that stimulus-response functions for pungency are steeper than those for odor. Furthermore, odor was always hypoadditive in mixtures (i.e., mixtures were perceived as less intense than the sum of their components), whereas pungency was, mainly, additive, and even suggested hyperadditivity. Total perceived intensity of the stimuli, alone and in mixtures, followed the stimulus-response patterns for pungency, which, therefore, emerged as the dominating attribute used by subjects in scaling the explored range of concentrations. The relationship between total nasal perceived intensity of the mixtures and that of their components reflected hypoaddition, resembling the outcome for the odor attribute.

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