The decrease in responsiveness that follows continuous stimulation (adaptation) is common to all sensory systems, including olfaction. With continued exposure to chronically present ambient odors, individuals’ perception of odor intensity is greatly reduced. Moreover, these perceptual changes can be profound and durable. It is commonly reported that following extended absences from the odorous environment, reexposure may still fail to elicit perception at the original intensity. Most research on olfactory adaptation examines relatively transient changes in stimulus detection or perceived intensity—rarely exceeding several hours and often less—but because olfactory adaptation can be produced with relatively short exposures, these durations are sufficient for investigating many parameters of the phenomenon. However, exposures to odors in natural environments often occur over far longer periods, and the resulting adaptations may
differ qualitatively from short-term olfactory adaptation. For example, studies show that even brief periods of odorant stimulation produce transient reductions in receptors in the olfactory epithelium, a process termed “receptor fatigue.” Prolonged odor stimulation, however, could produce more long-lasting reductions in response, possibly involving structures higher in the central nervous
system pathway.According to the passage, the phenomenon of olfactory adaptation may cause individuals who are reexposed to an odorous environment after an extended absence toexperience a heightened perception of the odor, perceive the odor as being less intense than it was upon first exposure, return to their original level of perception of the odor, exhibit a decreased tolerance for the odorous environment, experience the phenomenon of adaptation in other sensory systems
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