Effects of Olfactory Stimuli on Arm-Reaching Duration

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The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of olfactory stimuli on visually guided reaching. In Experiment 1, participants reached toward and grasped either a small (almond/strawberry) or a large (apple/orange) visual target. Any 1 of 4 odors corresponding to the visual stimuli or odorless air was administered before movement initiation. Within the same block of trials, participants smelled 1) an odor associated with an object of a different size than the target, 2) an odor associated with an object of a size equal to that of the target, or 3) odorless air. Results indicated that reaching duration was longer for trials in which the odor “size” and the visual target did not match than when they matched. In Experiment 2, the same procedures were applied but the “no-odor” trials were administered in a separate block to the “odor” trials. Similar results as for Experiment 1 were found. However, in contrast to Experiment 1, the presence of an odor increased the level of alertness resulting in a shortening of reaching duration. We contend that olfactory stimuli have the capacity to elicit motor plans interfering with those programmed for a movement toward a visual stimulus.

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