In mammals, the main olfactory system detects odorants that are inhaled through the nose, where they contact the main olfactory epithelium, which contains various olfactory receptors. These can distinguish a new odor from the background environmental odors and determine the concentration of the odor.
These olfactory receptors are connected to olfactory receptor neurons in the olfactory epithelium, which transduce receptoractivation into electrical signals in neurons. The signals travel along the olfactory nerve, which belongs to the peripheral nervous system. This nerve terminates in the olfactory bulb, which belongs to the central nervous system.
The piriform cortex is probably the area most closely associated with identifying the odor. The medial amygdala is involved in social functions such as mating and the recognition of animals of the same species. The entorhinal cortex is associated with memory, e.g. to pair odors with proper memories. The exact functions of these higher areas are a matter of scientific research and debate.
In the central nervous system, odors are represented as patterns of neural activity. These representations may be encoded by space (a pattern of activated neurons across a given olfactory region corresponds to the odor), time (a pattern of action potentials by multiple neurons corresponds to the odor) or a combination of the two. Scientists debate whether the odor code is primarially temporal or spatial.
US Patent Issued on March 8 for "Ultrasensitive Olfactory System Fabrication with Doped Aerogels" (California Inventor)
Mar 11, 2011; ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 11 -- United States Patent no. 7,901,632, issued on March 8. "Ultrasensitive Olfactory System Fabrication...