Determining the valence of an odor to provide information to guide rapid approach-avoidance behavior is thought to be one of the core tasks of the olfactory system, yet little is known of its initial neural mechanisms or subsequent behavioral manifestation in humans. In two experiments, we measured the functional processing of odor valence perception in the human olfactory bulb (OB), the first processing stage of the olfactory system, using a non-invasive method as well as assessed subsequent motor avoidance response. We demonstrate that odor valence perception is associated with both gamma and beta activity in the human OB. Moreover, we show that negative, but not positive, odors initiate an early beta response in the OB, a response that is linked to a preparatory neural motor response in motor cortex. Finally, in a separate experiment we show that negative odors trigger a full-body motor avoidance response, manifested as a rapid leaning away from the odor, in the time period predicted by the OB results. Taken together, these results demonstrate that the human OB processes odor valence in a sequential manner in both the gamma and beta frequency bands and suggest that early processing of unpleasant odors in the OB might underlie rapid approach-avoidance decisions.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience