In our research group we investigate physiological and psychological effects of odorants on humans, most specifically in relation to foods. Recent examples deal with the identification and quantification of food odorants by sensory and chemo analytical techniques such as high resolution gas chromatography-mass spectrometry in combination with olfactometric techniques and stable isotope dilution assays. Characterization of transfer and metabolism processes within the human body after consumption is realized by in vivo as well as in vitro studies. Of special interest for our research group is the transfer of human-specific but also dietary odorants into human milk, e. g. originating from the maternal food intake. Based on these studies, we evaluate the potential influence of odorants on neonates, both with regard to physiological but also behavioral effects. These are monitored, for example, by using biofeedback methodologies (EEG, heart rate, breathing patterns) as well as mimic analysis and behavioral testing. Using these techniques we have shown that the chemosensory skills of neonates differ drastically from those of adult humans and that they can react to substances that some adults do not smell.

In our studies we could furthermore show that some but not all food aromas undergo transmission into human milk and that diverse metabolites are additionally formed and secreted. Such transmission and metabolism data are the basis to investigate other physiological effects of odorants and their metabolites in vivo and in vitro, such as the activation of brain receptor systems involved in sedative and anxiolytic processes.

One of the final goals is to understand modification of food acceptance or preference due to odorant exposure and to characterize and develop optimized food aroma systems that support beneficial nourishment.

Future Perspectives:

We will further develop our research and expertise in the field of chemosensory perception throughout the human lifespan.

Issues of research will be:

  • Characterization of odor-active substances of relevance to human food and the environment
  • Resorption, transfer and metabolism processes of odor-active compounds in humans
  • Physiological and psychological/behavioral action of humans resulting from odorant exposure