Title: Assessment of olfactory information in the human brain using 7-Tesla functional magnetic resonance imaging
Olfaction could prove to be an early marker of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. To use olfaction for disease diagnosis, elucidating the standard olfactory functions in healthy humans is necessary. However, the olfactory function in the human brain is less frequently assessed because of methodological difficulties associated with olfactory-related cerebral areas. Using ultra-high fields (UHF), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with high spatial resolution and sensitivity may allow for the measurement of activation in the cerebral areas. This study aimed to apply 7-Tesla fMRI to assess olfactory function in the human brain by exposing individuals to four different odorants for 8 s. We found that olfactory stimulation mainly activated the piriform and orbitofrontal cortex in addition to the amygdala. Among these regions, univariate fMRI analysis indicated that subjective odor intensity significantly correlated with the averaged fMRI signals in the piriform cortex but not with subjective hedonic tone in any region. In contrast, multivariate fMRI analysis showed that subjective hedonic tone could be discriminated from the fMRI response patterns in the posterior orbitofrontal cortex. Thus, the piriform cortex is mainly associated with subjective odor intensity, whereas the posterior orbitofrontal cortex are involved in the discrimination of the subjective hedonic tone of the odorant. UHF-fMRI may be useful for assessing olfactory function in the human brain.