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NeurogastronomyHow the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters$
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Gordon Shepherd

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231159111

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231159111.001.0001

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Pointillist Images of Smell

Pointillist Images of Smell

(p.85) Chapter Nine Pointillist Images of Smell

Gordon M. Shepherd

Columbia University Press

This chapter uses the concept of pointillist art to illustrate how the neural basis of our ability to perceive a rich palette of smells is similar to the neural basis of our ability to perceive a rich palette of colors. “Pointillism” was invented and perfected by artist Georges Seurat, who drew his inspiration and methodology from visual theorists, most notably Wilhelm Helmholtz. The technique involves placing small dots of color on a canvas and then letting the effect of color mixing be seen from a distance, where the colors blend to produce the mixed color in the mind of the observer. The illuminated dots of colored paint reflecting different wavelengths of light are analogous to the modules called glomeruli in the olfactory bulb, each activated preferentially and differentially by different odor.

Keywords:   color, pointillist art, smell, pointillism, glomeruli, Georges Seurat, Wilhelm Helmholtz, olfactory bulb

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