The research on the link “odor – color – emotion”

MYRISSI is a company born from nearly ten years of research work carried out at ENSAIA (Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’ Agronomie et des Industries Alimentaires) at the University of Lorraine on the understanding and modelling the link between olfactory stimulation and visual stimulation. 


From this scientific background, the company retains a sustained R&D activity for itself or its customers. To facilitate the development of new innovations with its partners, the company is  accredited “CIR”.

Scientific context


The first demonstrations of the link between odors and colors date back to the 1990s. Two American teams had shown that this link was stable, spontaneous and non-random. Our first scientific contribution to this knowledge was to prove that if we want to use this strong link to represent olfactive perceptions, a single color is not enough. 

Indeed, our behavioural studies have allowed us to demonstrate that to represent all the facets of a fragrance, its complexity but also to differentiate two very close smells like lemon and lime, it is necessary to be interested in all the colors significantly associated with odor perception. On these early works, we created the first objective colored representations of fragrances allowing us to go beyond simplified and caricatured representations such as lemon is yellow and strawberry red.

We then carried out tests in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the USA. All of these data allowed us to demonstrate that OUR BRAIN associates with EACH ODORA MAIN COLOR related to archetypal values and COLORS OF ACCOMPANYING, reflecting socio-cultural nuances. Today, we have a database of more than 25.000 ODOR – COLOR TESTS.

To bring originality, compared to other teams working on the link odor/color, we have associated these behavioural data with CHEMICAL DATA OF ODORS CHARACTERIZATION. Thus, we have developed a second chemical database with the characterization of all the odors on which we worked. The acquisition of this new knowledges has led us to develop a modeling process that links our behavioural and sensory data. THIS PROCESS WAS PATENTED IN JUNE 2012. This process is at the origin of the development of our ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE E-COs.

The results obtained in recent years have allowed us to integrate the notion of “EMOTIONS” in this link odors – colors. In July 2017, a first thesis was submitted in collaboration with the Saint Esprit University of Kaslik in Lebanon on “the study of the effect of culture and emotions on the construction of the link between odors and colors”.



Today, our research is focused on a more detailed demonstration and understanding of this OLFACTIVE COLOR SUGGESTION CAPACITY through functional brain imaging. A second thesis has begun in October 2017 in collaboration with the IADI laboratory specializing in adaptive imaging at the University of Lorraine on “the study of olfactive evocation by color in functional MRI”.

The first results obtained showed that the colors presented in an abstract representation such as the one proposed by the MYRISSI technology made it possible to initiate olfactory imagination processes that result in the activation of tertiary olfactory zones such as the orbitofrontal cortex, the insular cortex and the hippocampus. In comparison, these activations are not observed when the representations are presented in black and white or when they are substituted by a figurative image such as a photograph.

From the research to MYRISSI creation

At the same time as this research works, there have been successive steps to enable the transfer of this knowledge to the professional world, thanks in particular to the support given to the project by the FEDER, the Lorraine Regional Council, the Ministry of Higher Education and Research and the University of Lorraine.

Région Lorraine

The company’s creation project has been accompanied by the Incubateur Lorrain since 2012. In the same year, it was a prize-winner of the Competition for Innovative Company of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research in the “Émergence” category and “Coup de Coeur” of the Lorraine Region.


In 2014, after its creation, MYRISSI received the support of Bpifrance to develop its business. Today, the research program continues in collaboration with InnoCIM (ENSAIA, University of Lorraine).

Some reference articles to learn more about the relationship between color and odor

  • Céline Charroud, Muriel Jacquot, Romain Tonnelet, Julie Boyer, Léa Nehmé, Faustine Noël, Jacques Felblinger, Marc Braun and Gabriela Hossu, 2017. Olfactory evocation capacity of colors: a functional MRI study. (submitted)
  • Muriel JACQUOT, Faustine NOEL, Carlos VELASCO and Charles SPENCE, 2016. On the colours of odours. Chemosensory perception, 9(2): 79-93
  • WAN, Xiaoang; WOODS, Andy; JACQUOT, Muriel; KNOEFERLE, Klemens; KIKUTANI, Mariko; SPENCE, Charles 2016. The Effects of Receptacle on the Expected Flavour of a Coloured Beverage: Cross-Cultural Comparison among French, Japanese, and Norwegian Consumers. Journal of Sensory Studies, 31(3): 233-244
  • Léa NEHME, Reine BARBAR, Yelena MARIC and Muriel JACQUOT, 2016. Influence of odor function and color symbolism in odor-color associations: a French – Lebanese – Taiwanese cross-cultural study. Food Quality and Preference, 49: 33-41
  • Muriel JACQUOT & Yelena MARIC, 2014. Interactions sensorielles et applications dans le domaine du packaging. Techniques de l’Ingénieur
  • Yelena MARIC & Muriel JACQUOT, 2013. Contribution to understanding odour-colour associations. Food Quality and Preference, 17 (2) : 191-195
  • SPENCE C, 2011. Crossmodal correspondences: A tutorial review. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 73(4): 971-995
  • DEMATTE ML, SANABRIA D and SPENCE C, 2006. Cross-modal associations between odors and colors. Chem. Senses. 31 : 531–538
  • OSTERBAUER RA & al., 2005. The color of scents: chromatic stimuli modulate odor responses in the human brain. J. Neurophysiol., 93 :  3434–3441
  • SCHIFFERSTEIN HNJ & TANUDJAJA I, 2004. Visualising fragrances through colours: the mediating role of emotions. Perception, 33 : 1249–1266
  • MORROT G, BROCHET F, DUBOURDIEU D, 2001. The color of odors. Brain Lang., 79 : 309–320
  • KEMP SE & GILBERT AN, 1997. Odor intensity and color lightness are correlated sensory dimensions. Am. J. Psychol., 11 :35–46
  • GILBERT AN, MARTIN R, KEMP SE, 1996. Cross-modal correspondence between vision and olfaction: the color of smells. Am. J. Psychol., 109 : 335–351
  • ZELLNER DA, BARTOLI AM, ECKARD R, 1991. Influence of Color on Odor Identification and Liking Ratings. The American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 104, No. 4 : 547-561