Deconstructing the mouse olfactory percept through an ethological atlas

Diogo Manoel, Melanie Makhlouf, Charles J. Arayata, Abbirami Sathappan, Sahar Da'as, Doua Abdelrahman, Senthil Selvaraj, Reem Hasnah, Joel D. Mainland, Richard C. Gerkin, Luis R. Saraiva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Odor perception in non-humans is poorly understood. Here, we generated the most comprehensive mouse olfactory ethological atlas to date, consisting of behavioral responses to a diverse panel of 73 odorants, including 12 at multiple concentrations. These data revealed that mouse behavior is incredibly diverse and changes in response to odorant identity and concentration. Using only behavioral responses observed in other mice, we could predict which of two odorants was presented to a held-out mouse 82% of the time. Considering all 73 possible odorants, we could uniquely identify the target odorant from behavior on the first try 20% of the time and 46% within five attempts. Although mouse behavior is difficult to predict from human perception, they share three fundamental properties: first, odor valence parameters explained the highest variance of olfactory perception. Second, physicochemical properties of odorants can be used to predict the olfactory percept. Third, odorant concentration quantitatively and qualitatively impacts olfactory perception. These results increase our understanding of mouse olfactory behavior and how it compares to human odor perception and provide a template for future comparative studies of olfactory percepts among species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2809-2818.e3
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 12 2021


  • behavior
  • chemoinformatics
  • machine learning
  • odor
  • olfactory
  • perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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