It smells yellow to me

From San Diego at the Society for Neuroscience meeting.

Does the color that a person sees influence what that person smells? Yes, according to a brain-imaging study recently conducted by Robert A. Osterbauer of the University of Oxford in England and his colleagues.

Using a noninvasive technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging, the scientists viewed the brain activity of eight volunteers as they experienced various combinations of smells–lemon, strawberry, spearmint, or caramel–and colors–yellow, red, turquoise, or brown. When a color and smell matched expectations–yellow together with a lemon odor, for example–there was more activity in brain regions that process olfactory information than when the smell was given alone.

Compared with a smell by itself, mismatched information–such as a lemon odor and the color red–produced less brain activity in the olfactory regions. This imaging study, say the scientists, offers a neural explanation for past work that indicated that colors influence perception of smells. For example, adding red coloring to white wine can alter how a person perceives the beverage’s odor.