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Database covers aroma compounds.

Flavornet is a database containing aroma compounds found in the human sensory environment. A seemingly infinite number of perceptions can be invoked by less than 1,000 odorants that make up this space. In the database, the aroma compounds are sorted by their chromatographic and sensory properties.

Except for indexing standards, the data have been taken from published research that involved the use of gas chromatography-olfactometry (GCO). The data are listed in decreasing retention indices, by both Kovats n-paraffin and ethyl ester index, on four different substrates.

To qualify for the Flavornet, an odorant must have been detected in a natural product or real environment by quantitative GCO, such as aroma extraction dilution analysis (AEDA), CharmAnalysis[TM] or Osme. For this reason, the Flavornet lists only those volatiles that humans use in their chemical ecology.

Once on the list, missing data about an odorant can be filled with estimates (shown in square brackets). These estimates will be replaced with experimental measurements as they become available. The chemical data for the odorants were checked against the Chemical Abstract Service databases. If you would like to add to this database, contact scientists at Cornell University.

Scientists are interested in how stimulant composition is represented in perception. Mediated by sensory neurons expressing a given receptor, these odorants generate neural excitation in the brain that is a topographic map of sensory information. Research suggests that olfactory receptor expression varies significantly in the human population, and this may explain the functional variation in taste and olfaction that has been observed for decades. Understanding the relationship between stimulant composition and perception is central to understanding the representation of chemical information in the brain and the impact of genetic diversity on the perception of food.

An internal representation of the external world is created in the brain of all eukaryotes by a mechanism that detects chemicals in the environment. The mechanism transmits this information to the brain, where it is processed to create, at least in humans, perceptions. This sensory representation of the external chemical world in the brain is a translation of stimulus features into a neural sensory map. It is the nature of this sensory map that is the goal of research, namely how it is established by stimulant patterns, how it varies in a population, and ultimately how it modulates other brain functions such as emotions or behavior.

Further information. Terry Acree, Cornell University, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Department of Food Science and Technology, Geneva, NY 14456; phone: 315-787-2240; email:
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Publication:Emerging Food R&D Report
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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