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Chemosensory additivity in trigeminal chemoreception as reflected by detection of mixtures

The data associated with this publication are within the manuscript.

A series of experiments probed into the degree of chemosensory detection additivity exhibited by mixtures of ethyl propanoate and heptanoate in terms of their trigeminal detectability via nasal pungency (i.e., irritation) and eye irritation. Nasal pungency was tested in subjects lacking a functional sense of smell (i.e., anosmics) to avoid olfactory biases. First, we built concentration-detection functions for each chemical and sensory endpoint. Second, we used the data from the functions to prepare mixtures of the two compounds in complementary proportions, and suitable single-chemical standards, all of which should be equally detectable under a rule of complete additivity, i.e., independence of detection. Third, we compared the experimentally obtained detectability with that expected under such rule. The outcome revealed that, at a low detectability level (but still above chance), the mixtures showed complete additivity for both trigeminal endpoints. At a high detectability level (but below perfect detection), the mixtures showed complete additivity for nasal pungency but less than complete additivity for eye irritation. In the context of previous studies, the results consolidate a picture of higher degree of detection additivity at perithreshold levels in trigeminal than in olfactory chemoreception. The outcome presents another line of evidence suggesting broader chemical tuning in chemesthesis compared to olfaction.

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