After chemical stimulation of the human olfactory epithelium it is possible to record a negative response (electro-olfactogram, EOG) which is interpreted as the summated generator potential of olfactory neurons. The aim of the present investigation was to test whether the EOG is present when olfactory stimuli have not been perceived. Stimulation was performed with vanillin and eugenol at supraliminal and subliminal levels. Twelve healthy volunteers participated in the experiments. Stimuli were applied at an interstimulus interval of approximately 60 s. Although recordings were successful in 4 of the 12 subjects, for both stimulants EOG could be obtained even when the stimuli had not been perceived by the subjects. EOG recordings in response to supra- and subliminal stimuli exhibited no major differences, except for the onset of the EOG in response to subliminal eugenol-stimuli which were prolonged compared to supraliminal stimulation. All in all, the present data provide a physiological basis for the subliminal influence of odorous stimuli on human behavior.
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