International collaborative projects

Other projects
— Share on

Cognitive psychology, brain, perception


Representation of ODors: from physical features
to perceptual processing

Understanding how the human brain represents olfactory objects is a major challenge in cognitive psychology. While the representation of visual objects is well understood, much work remains to be done for smells. MEROD has shown that the mental representation of odour cannot be separated from a high level of variation between individuals.

It is also distributed in multiple ways, between the primary sensory areas for the chemical attributes of odours and the secondary areas for the perceptual attributes.

This representation is significantly disrupted in certain pathologies that affect the sense of smell. These conceptual advances suggest innovative avenues for research on an industrial level (implementing this theoretical knowledge from cognitive psychology in artificial noses) and a clinical level (refining the diagnosis of certain illnesses).

The project

ANR programme: FRAL

Edition, project duration: 2015, 47 months

ANR grant: € 189,680


Project region: Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Main publication ou contribution:

  • Fournel A, Ferdenzi C, Sezille C, Rouby C, Bensafi M. Multidimensional representation of odors in the human olfactory cortex. Hum Brain Mapp. 2016 Jun;37(6):2161-72. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23164. Epub 2016 Mar 16. PMID: 26991044
  • Licon CC, Bosc G, Sabri M, Mantel M, Fournel A, Bushdid C, Golebiowski J, Robardet C, Plantevit M, Kaytoue M, Bensafi M. Chemical features mining provides new descriptive structure-odor relationships. PLoS Comput Biol. 2019 Apr 25;15(4):e1006945. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1006945. eCollection 2019 Apr. PMID: 31022180


  • Centre de Recherche en Neurosciences de Lyon, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, CNRS UMR 5292, Inserm U1028.
  • “Smell & Taste” interdisciplinary centre in the ENT Department of the Technische Universität Dresden.
Projet MEROD
Representation of smell in the brain. © Simon Rouby

MEROD has contributed to the creation of three new projects : a joint French- German international laboratory, a multidisciplinary European consortium focusing on human and artificial olfaction, and a project to disseminate knowledge about smell.