A cut-off in ocular chemesthesis from vapors of homologous alkylbenzenes and 2-ketones as revealed by concentration-detection functions


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Abstract

Studies of homologous series of environmental vapors have shown that their chemesthetic (i.e., sensory irritation) potency increases with carbon chain length (that is, their detection thresholds decrease) until they reach a homolog that fails to be detected, even at vapor saturation. All ensuing homologs cannot be detected either. In this investigation, we measured concentration-detection (i.e., psychometric) functions for ocular chemesthesis from homologous alkylbenzenes (pentyl, hexyl, and heptyl benzene) and 2-ketones (undecanone, dodecanone, and tridecanone). Using a three-alternative forced-choice procedure against air blanks, we tested a total of 18 to 24 subjects, about half of them females, average age 31 years, ranging from 18 to 56 years. Stimuli were generated and presented by a computer-controlled, vapor delivery device whose output was quantified by gas chromatography. Exposure time was 6 s and delivery flow 2.5 L/min. Within the context of present and previous findings, the outcome indicated that the functions for heptylbenzene and 2-tridecanone reached a plateau where further increases in concentration did not enhance detection. We conclude that: a) a cut-off point in ocular chemesthetic detection is reached along homologous alkylbenzenes and 2-ketones at the level of heptylbenzene and 2-tridecanone, respectively, and b) the observed effect rests on the homologs exceeding a critical molecular size (or dimension) rather than on them failing to achieve a high enough vapor concentration.

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