Aline Pichon

Aline Pichon
PhD Student
Current Research

After my B.S. degree in Biology from the University of Lausanne, I specialized in Medical Biology and Pharmacology and became interested in the mechanisms of sensory perception. I conducted my Master thesis at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, in Marie-Christine Broillet’s group, where I studied the cellular pathway mediating the transduction of sweet taste in mice. The project combined behavioral observations and different techniques of cellular imaging (Calcium Imaging, confocal microscopy and fluorescent immunohistochemistry).

I am currently pursuing a  PhD on emotional preparedness in odors and influences of fragrances on mood, behavior and cognitive performance under the supervision of Patrik Vuilleumier and David Sander. In order to evaluate the effect of fragrances on basic cognitive processes, our first study assessed the influence of odors according to their pleasantness in aversive conditioning, using behavioral, physiological and neuroimaging measures.  A second study used fMRI to study how distinct emotional components of odors are represented neurally, beyond valence, covering the spectrum of olfactory emotions as defined by the 6-level Geneva Odor Emotion Scale (GEOS). Odors were delivered with an MRI compatible olfactometer. We performed parametrical analyses with GEOS and hedonicity scores, in order to identify the substrates for specific dimensions of olfactory emotions and pleasantness, while acknowledging for individual differences in subjective percept. We observed emotion category specific neural profiles, persisting after the removal of parametric effects due to the valence component. Taken together, these results illustrate the specificity and relevance of the GEOS framework to account for emotional responses to odorants in the brain, as compared with measures based on pleasantness only. A third MRI  study, based on the outcome of these first experiments, is currently being carried over. It aims at examining the effects of attention and emotion on olfactory and auditory perception at the brain level.