Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

How does selective attention to affect influence sensory processing? In a functional magnetic resonance imaging investigation, when subjects were instructed to remember and rate the pleasantness of a jasmine odor, activations were greater in the medial orbito-frontal and pregenual cingulate cortex than when subjects were instructed to remember and rate the intensity of the odor. When the subjects were instructed to remember and rate the intensity, activations were greater in the inferior frontal gyrus. These top-down effects occurred not only during odor delivery but started in a preparation period after the instruction before odor delivery, and continued after termination of the odor in a short-term memory period. Thus, depending on the context in which odors are presented and whether affect is relevant, the brain prepares itself, responds to, and remembers an odor differently. These findings show that when attention is paid to affective value, the brain systems engaged to prepare for, represent, and remember a sensory stimulus are different from those engaged when attention is directed to the physical properties of a stimulus such as its intensity. This differential biasing of brain regions engaged in processing a sensory stimulus depending on whether the cognitive demand is for affect-related versus more sensory-related processing may be an important aspect of cognition and attention. This has many implications for understanding the effects not only of olfactory but also of other sensory stimuli.

Original publication




Journal article


J Cogn Neurosci

Publication Date





1815 - 1826


Adult, Affect, Attention, Brain, Brain Mapping, Female, Functional Laterality, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Odorants, Olfactory Pathways, Oxygen, Psychophysics, Time Factors