About this Research Topic
To generate a representation of our environment we need to perceive, select, and interpret sensory information. We perceive our chemical environment with three heterogeneous sensory modalities: smell, taste, and chemesthesis. Peripherally these modalities have distinct mechanisms, but ecological stimuli rarely trigger them in isolation. For example, flavor evokes a unitary percept, despite contributions from all three sensory systems. Due to the distinct peripheral mechanisms, the integration of these sensory signals must be achieved by interactions in the brain. This multisensory perception is additionally enriched by information from other sensory modalities, memory, or higher cognition. In turn, chemosensory perceptions play a crucial role in regulating emotions, modulating social interaction, nutrition, and well-being as a whole. Therefore, modeling of central neural interactions is a tool par excellence for understanding multimodal chemosensory perception.
Recent years have seen tremendous progress in the analysis of interaction between brain regions, enhancing our understanding of the structural and functional mechanism underlying brain network organization. This development is primarily driven by the advances in complex network theory leading to the new field of connectomics, the description of the connections (and their properties) between different elements in our nervous system.
In parallel, our understanding of peripheral and central mechanisms underlying our ability to sense the chemical environment increased, leading to a good understanding of the specific and distinct neuronal systems associated with each of the three chemical senses. This includes recent descriptions of a functional connectome underlying human olfaction and gustatory networks.
Multimodal chemosensory perception - precisely because commonly perceived as unitary - must be represented in a widely distributed brain network with integration across the underlying distributed structures. So far, a description of the complexity and diversity of this network, the definition of connected hubs or network modularity is missing entirely. Furthermore, the interaction of this large-scale network with other functional systems is mostly unknown. However, detailed insight into this network is utterly needed to better understand the influence of chemical information on our lives and experiences.
In this Research Topic, we primarily aim to describe the functional connectome of multimodal chemosensory perception, as well as its interconnection to other sensory and cognitive systems. We welcome methodological articles, experimental studies, systematic reviews, or opinion papers
● that describe the functional connectome underlying multimodal chemosensory perception at various scales
● that elaborate the properties, possible hubs, and network modality within the connectome
● that aim to characterize the integration of non-chemical information from other sensory or cognitive modalities into this functional network or illustrate the contribution of this system to different emotional, cognitive, and social systems.
While we do not explicitly exclude clinical studies, we want to enforce the basic scientific character of this research topic. Additionally, articles that do not include an element of connectivity or focus on unimodal chemosensory processing will not be accepted.
Keywords: Connectome, functional connectivity, smell, taste, chemesthesis, perception
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