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I'm looking for at least one scientific study about how odours could impact human olfactory system and create some phenomenon that could be loosely compared to retina remanence.

As an example, with standard eyes, when you look at a cyan area for a long time and then look at a white paper, the paper looks yellow for a while (see some fun experiments here). This seems to be called an afterimage.

In the type of study I'm looking for, if it exists, the olfactory cells would be involved instead of the retina.

Being exposed to a strong odour for some time would make the subject smell an other odour (a complementary odour?) when the strong odour disappear even if nothing casts this new "complementary" odour to the nose. We could call this an "afterodour" or a "complementary ordour".

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The problem with odors is that no known odorant hits only one olfactory receptor. A saturating concentration of compound X for receptor A might be saturating another receptor B, but not receptor C. If you now decrease the concentration, receptor A is still saturated, receptor B is only partially activated and receptor C is not activated at all. Since smell is perceived as the sum of inputs from all olfactory receptors, the smell at the different concentrations will be perceived totally different because of the different receptor activation. Exposing a nose to a strong stimulus will always stimulate more than one receptor, so saturation will occur at more than one receptor.

Perception of light on the other hand depends on finely tuned receptors which are specific for a certain wavelength range. Once the receptors were tuned to have few very specific receptors and once they were tuned to have a lot of unspecific receptors. I like the idea but I doubt it can be confirmed in the lab, also I couldn't find any reports supporting, not that this is any proof.

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Yes, there is something like an "odor afterimage", at least in rodents. This is the paper:

http://www.pnas.org/content/110/35/E3340.abstract

But have in mind that this phenomenon is quite different from visual afterimages. First, it doesn't depend strictly on "adaptation", because adaptation is a property of the sensory organ, not of the brain. Second, besides all the qualia questions, it doesn't seems to create different olfactory sensations, or a "complementary odour" as you said. One of the reasons for this lack of "complementary odour" is that the complexity of olfactory receptors (simply put, the number of different receptors and their activity) is way higher than that of visual receptors, so, it's not a simply matter of receiving more impulses from the non-adapting receptors than from the adapting ones, as in vision.

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    $\begingroup$ Very interesting! Not exactly what I'm looking for, but pretty close subject. I'll try to contact the study authors. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Nicolas Massart Jun 5 '16 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ No worries. But I believe that, in the end, the answer to your question would be "no". An analogy with the true visual after image doesn't hold water in several aspects, the most important being the white color. The white color is a mix of wavelengths that stimulates equally all the 3 cones. That's why you see red if you look at a white paper after seeing a green color for a long time: the CNS doesn't receive the "white" information because the R cone is adapting. To have the same regarding odour, we'd have to come with a "white odour", a mix of all possible odorants. (continues below) $\endgroup$ – user24284 Jun 6 '16 at 0:46
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    $\begingroup$ (continuation) Then, after giving the person just one odorant for a long time, give him/her the "white odour" and check if the odour he/she feels is the same white odour without adaptation (because the saturated receptor, adapting, will be firing less). And I reckon that such an experiment is simply not doable. $\endgroup$ – user24284 Jun 6 '16 at 0:48
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for this comment. Note that I'm not looking for something that says it is real. I'm looking for studies that could either say yes or no. Your answer gives me a lot of tips to head my searches. I'll tell here if I find something. $\endgroup$ – Nicolas Massart Jun 6 '16 at 6:53

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