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Title: Human infant olfaction : responses to food odours measured by brain electrical activity mapping (B.E.A.M.)
Author: Kendal-Reed, Martin Stuart
ISNI:       0000 0001 3597 0283
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 1990
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This thesis addresses the area of human infant olfaction, which has hitherto been a somewhat neglected area in psychology. A review of the available literature showed that a number of different experimental approaches to infant olfaction could be identified. It was concluded from this literature review that infants display a degree of olfactory competence in the weeks after birth. These previous findings are discussed in the light of a model concerned with odour significance. This model is systems-based and suggests an explanation for the apparent olfactory competence of human infants in the first weeks of life. It is argued that this may derive from pre-natal exposure to odorants and consequent acceleration of maturation in the foetal olfactory system. The experiments reported in this thesis concentrated on the cortical reactions of infants to a small range food odours. These reactions were plotted by means of a technique involving electro-encephalography. This technique involves a computerised imaging system which summarises cortical potentials from twenty-eight locations on the scalp and is known as Brain Electrical Activity Mapping (BEAM). It is believed that this is the first time that this method has been used to examine responses to odour in human infants. This study also involved the use of a special low ambient odour testing environment. A parallel study used respiratory plethysmography to test odour response. The major findings of the BEAM research are as follows: 1) The BEAM technique has been shown to be a practical method in the psychophysical measurement of cortical responses to odour in the human infant. 2) Human infants at the age of three months show a pattern of cortical activity in response to a small range of food odours. 3) There is evidence that a limited area of the infant brain is responding to these odours. It was argued that these findings lent some support to the model described above. However, similar findings to that of the BEAM work were not shown by the respiratory plethysmography study. This was explained by problems in data handling techniques. It was concluded that the BEAM method could be used to further knowledge in the area of infant olfactory response. Possible improvements to the experimental technique were discussed which would allow testing of infant response to maternal odour. Such future work could shed considerable light on the role of olfaction in the early infant-mother relationship.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Wellcome Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: QP Physiology