Ontogeny of olfaction: Development of the rats' sensitivity to urine and amyl acetate

Jeffrey R. Alberts, Brad May

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Rat pups, 1 to 17 days of age, were tested for sensitivity to two olfactants, amyl acetate and adult rat urine. Biological and non-biological olfactory stimuli were generated by sparging and delivered to subjects via a dilution olfactometer. Unconditioned respiratory responses, odor-induced polypnea and sniffing, were used to measure detection of an odorant injected into a background stream of filtered air. Amyl acetate was presented in an ascending series of concentrations. Pups of all ages detected amyl acetate; chemosensitivity increased with age to all 3 concentrations of this nonbiological stimulus. Two concentrations of adult rat urine odor were equated to the strength of amyl acetate for 9-day-olds. Each normalized urine stimulus was then tested across the full range of age groups. Again, there was a dramatic age-related increase in chemosensitivity. Moreover, there was no indication of differential sensitivity to these biological and non-biological olfactants. These data were discussed within methodological and conceptual frameworks related to analyses of early olfactory and behavioral ontogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)965-970
Number of pages6
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1980
Externally publishedYes


  • Amyl acetate
  • Olfactometry
  • Olfactory development
  • Olfactory sensitivity
  • Sniffing
  • Urine odors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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