Odors are represented by specific spatio-temporal activity patterns in the olfactory bulb of vertebrates and its insect analogue, the antennal lobe. In honeybees inhibitory circuits in the AL are involved in the processing of odors to shape afferent odor responses. GABA is known as an inhibitory transmitter in the antennal lobe, but not all interneurons are GABAergic. Therefore we sought to analyze the functional role of the inhibitory transmitter histamine for the processing of odors in the honeybee AL.
We optically recorded the representation of odors before, during and after histamine application at the input level (estimated from a compound signal), and at the output level (by selectively measuring the projection neurons). For both, histamine led to a strong and reversible reduction of odor-evoked responses.
We propose that histamine, in addition to GABA, acts as an inhibitory transmitter in the honeybee AL and is therefore likely to play a role in odor processing.
For animals to execute odor-driven behaviors, the olfactory system must process complex odor signals and maintain stimulus identity in the face of constantly changing odor intensities [1–5]. Surprisingly, how the olfactory system maintains identity of complex odors is unclear [6–10]. We took advantage of the plant-pollinator relationship between the Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii) and the moth Manduca sexta [11, 12] to determine how olfactory networks in this insect’s brain represent odor mixtures. We combined gas chromatography and neural-ensemble recording in the moth’s antennal lobe to examine population codes for the floral mixture and its fractionated components. Although the floral scent of D. wrightii comprises at least 60 compounds, only nine of those elicited robust neural responses. Behavioral experiments confirmed that these nine odorants mediate flower-foraging behaviors, but only as a mixture. Moreover, the mixture evoked equivalent foraging behaviors over a 1000-fold range in dilution, suggesting a singular percept across this concentration range. Furthermore, neural-ensemble recordings in the moth’s antennal lobe revealed that reliable encoding of the floral mixture is organized through synchronized activity distributed across a population of glomerular coding units, and this timing mechanism may bind the features of a complex stimulus into a coherent odor percept.
We investigate the interplay of odor identity and concentration coding in the antennal lobe (AL) of the honeybee Apis mellifera. In this primary olfactory center of the honeybee brain, odors are encoded by the spatio-temporal response patterns of olfactory glomeruli. With rising odor concentration, further glomerular responses are recruited into the patterns, which affects distances between the patterns. Based on calcium-imaging recordings, we found that such pattern broadening renders distances between glomerular response patterns closer to chemical distances between the corresponding odor molecules. Our results offer an explanation for the honeybee's improved odor discrimination performance at higher odor concentrations.
calcium-imaging; honeybees; glomerular pattern; odor concentration coding; odor identity coding; chemical dissimilarity
The honeybee Apis mellifera has a remarkable ability to detect and locate food sources during foraging, and to associate odor cues with food rewards. In the honeybee’s olfactory system, sensory input is first processed in the antennal lobe (AL) network. Uniglomerular projection neurons (PNs) convey the sensory code from the AL to higher brain regions via two parallel but anatomically distinct pathways, the lateral and the medial antenno-cerebral tract (l- and m-ACT). Neurons innervating either tract show characteristic differences in odor selectivity, concentration dependence, and representation of mixtures. It is still unknown how this differential stimulus representation is achieved within the AL network. In this contribution, we use a computational network model to demonstrate that the experimentally observed features of odor coding in PNs can be reproduced by varying lateral inhibition and gain control in an otherwise unchanged AL network. We show that odor coding in the l-ACT supports detection and accurate identification of weak odor traces at the expense of concentration sensitivity, while odor coding in the m-ACT provides the basis for the computation and following of concentration gradients but provides weaker discrimination power. Both coding strategies are mutually exclusive, which creates a tradeoff between detection accuracy and sensitivity. The development of two parallel systems may thus reflect an evolutionary solution to this problem that enables honeybees to achieve both tasks during bee foraging in their natural environment, and which could inspire the development of artificial chemosensory devices for odor-guided navigation in robots.
dual pathway odor coding; mixture coding; antennal lobe; computational model; honeybee foraging
Neurons in the insect antennal lobe represent odors as spatiotemporal patterns of activity that unfold over multiple time scales. As these patterns unspool they decrease the overlap between odor representations and thereby increase the ability of the olfactory system to discriminate odors. Using a realistic model of the insect antennal lobe we examined two competing components of this process –lateral excitation from local excitatory interneurons, and slow inhibition from local inhibitory interneurons. We found that lateral excitation amplified differences between representations of similar odors by recruiting projection neurons that did not receive direct input from olfactory receptors. However, this increased sensitivity also amplified noisy variations in input and compromised the ability of the system to respond reliably to multiple presentations of the same odor. Slow inhibition curtailed the spread of projection neuron activity and increased response reliability. These competing influences must be finely balanced in order to decorrelate odor representations.
The antennal lobe of insects and the olfactory bulb of vertebrates represent the first centers of the olfactory system where information about odor properties can be reorganized and optimized for further processing. Complex excitatory and inhibitory synaptic interactions within the antennal lobe and the olfactory bulb alter the responses of the principal neurons throughout the duration of the odor stimulation. These dynamic changes progressively increase the difference between firing patterns evoked by structurally similar odors, potentially helping the animal distinguish one odor from another. However, this process, called odor decorrelation, appears to oppose another important goal of olfactory processing, to minimize the inevitable noisy variations in representations of the same odor encountered under different environmental conditions; such variations could potentially lead to misclassification. It remains an interesting mystery how olfactory circuitry can solve these two seemingly contradictory goals as they process olfactory stimuli: first, separating different but chemically similar odors (sensitivity, capacity); and second, identifying representations of the same odor in a noisy environment (reliability). Our results suggest a balance between inhibitory and excitatory connections mediated by local antennal lobe interneurons enhances the decorrelation of similar odors while keeping the representation robust in the presence of noise.
The non-topographical representation of odor quality space differentiates early olfactory representations from those in other sensory systems. Decorrelation among olfactory representations with respect to physical odorant similarities has been proposed to rely upon local feed-forward inhibitory circuits in the glomerular layer that decorrelate odor representations with respect to the intrinsically high-dimensional space of ligand–receptor potency relationships. A second stage of decorrelation is likely to be mediated by the circuitry of the olfactory bulb external plexiform layer. Computations in this layer, or in the analogous interneuronal network of the insect antennal lobe, are dependent on fast network oscillations that regulate the timing of mitral cell and projection neuron (MC/PN) action potentials; this suggests a largely spike timing-dependent metric for representing odor information, here proposed to be a precedence code. We first illustrate how the rate coding metric of the glomerular layer can be transformed into a spike precedence code in MC/PNs. We then show how this mechanism of representation, combined with spike timing-dependent plasticity at MC/PN output synapses, can progressively decorrelate high-dimensional, non-topographical odor representations in third-layer olfactory neurons. Reducing MC/PN oscillations abolishes the spike precedence code and blocks this progressive decorrelation, demonstrating the learning network's selectivity for these sparsely synchronized MC/PN spikes even in the presence of temporally disorganized background activity. Finally, we apply this model to odor representations derived from calcium imaging in the honeybee antennal lobe, and show how odor learning progressively decorrelates odor representations, and how the abolition of PN oscillations impairs odor discrimination.
olfaction; gamma oscillations; sparse synchronization; STDP; olfactory bulb; antennal lobe; odor learning; conditioning
Animals typically perceive natural odor cues in their olfactory environment as a complex mixture of chemically diverse components. In insects, the initial representation of an odor mixture occurs in the first olfactory center of the brain, the antennal lobe (AL). The contribution of single neurons to the processing of complex mixtures in insects, and in particular moths, is still largely unknown. Using a novel multicomponent stimulus system to equilibrate component and mixture concentrations according to vapor pressure, we performed intracellular recordings of projection and interneurons in an attempt to quantitatively characterize mixture representation and integration properties of single AL neurons in the moth. We found that the fine spatiotemporal representation of 2–7 component mixtures among single neurons in the AL revealed a highly combinatorial, non-linear process for coding host mixtures presumably shaped by the AL network: 82% of mixture responding projection neurons and local interneurons showed non-linear spike frequencies in response to a defined host odor mixture, exhibiting an array of interactions including suppression, hypoadditivity, and synergism. Our results indicate that odor mixtures are represented by each cell as a unique combinatorial representation, and there is no general rule by which the network computes the mixture in comparison to single components. On the single neuron level, we show that those differences manifest in a variety of parameters, including the spatial location, frequency, latency, and temporal pattern of the response kinetics.
odor processing; network; intracellular; electrophysiological recording; single cell
Odors evoke complex spatiotemporal responses in the insect antennal lobe (AL) and mammalian olfactory bulb. However, the behavioral relevance of spatiotemporal coding remains unclear. In the present work we combined behavioral analyses with calcium imaging of odor induced activity in the honey bee AL to evaluate the relevance of this temporal dimension in the olfactory code. We used a new way for evaluation of odor similarity of binary mixtures in behavioral studies, which involved testing if a match of odor sampling time is necessary between training and testing conditions for odor recognition during associative learning. Using graded changes in the similarity of the mixture ratios, we found high correlations between the behavioral generalization across those mixtures and a gradient of activation in AL output. Furthermore, short odor stimuli of 500 ms or less affected how well odors were matched with a memory template, and this time corresponded to a shift from a sampling-time-dependent to a sampling-time-independent memory. Accordingly, 375 ms corresponded to the time required for spatiotemporal AL activity patterns to reach maximal separation according to imaging studies. Finally, we compared spatiotemporal representations of binary mixtures in trained and untrained animals. AL activity was modified by conditioning to improve separation of odor representations. These data suggest that one role of reinforcement is to “tune” the AL such that relevant odors become more discriminable.
olfaction; synchrony; transients; spatiotemporal coding; plasticity; calcium imaging; discrimination
In animals, odor qualities are represented as both spatial activity patterns of glomeruli and temporal patterns of synchronized oscillatory signals in the primary olfactory centers. By optical imaging of a voltage-sensitive dye (VSD) and intracellular recording from secondary olfactory interneurons, we examined possible neural correlates of the spatial and temporal odor representations in the primary olfactory center, the antennal lobe (AL), of the cockroach Periplaneta americana. Voltage-sensitive dye imaging revealed that all used odorants induced odor-specific temporal patterns of depolarizing potentials in specific combinations of anterior glomeruli of the AL. The depolarizing potentials evoked by different odorants were temporally synchronized across glomeruli and were termed “synchronized potentials.” These observations suggest that odor qualities are represented by spatio-temporal activity patterns of the synchronized potentials across glomeruli. We also performed intracellular recordings and stainings from secondary olfactory interneurons, namely projection neurons and local interneurons. We analyzed the temporal structures of enanthic acid-induced action potentials of secondary olfactory interneurons using simultaneous paired intracellular recording from two given neurons. Our results indicated that the multiple local interneurons synchronously fired in response to the olfactory stimulus. In addition, all stained enanthic acid-responsive projection neurons exhibited dendritic arborizations within the glomeruli where the synchronized potentials were evoked. Since multiple local interneurons are known to synapse to a projection neuron in each glomerulus in the cockroach AL, converging inputs from local interneurons to the projection neurons appear to contribute the odorant specific spatio-temporal activity patterns of the synchronized potentials.
olfaction; synchronized potentials; optical imaging; voltage-sensitive dye; intracellular recording; local interneurons; projection neurons; insects
A unifying feature of mammalian and insect olfactory systems is that olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) expressing the same unique odorant receptor gene converge onto the same glomeruli in the brain (1–7). Most odorants activate a combination of receptors and thus distinct patterns of glomeruli, forming a proposed combinatorial spatial code that could support discrimination between a large number of odorants (8–11). OSNs also exhibit odor-evoked responses with complex temporal dynamics (11), but the contribution of this activity to behavioral odor discrimination has received little attention (12). Here we investigated the importance of spatial encoding in the relatively simple Drosophila antennal lobe. We show that Drosophila can learn to discriminate between two odorants with one functional class of Or83b-expressing OSNs. Furthermore, these flies encode one odorant from a mixture, and cross-adapt to odorants that activate the relevant OSN class, demonstrating that they discriminate odorants using the same OSNs. Lastly, flies with a single class of Or83b-expressing OSNs recognize a specific odorant across a range of concentration indicating that they encode odorant identity. Therefore flies can distinguish odorants without discrete spatial codes in the antennal lobe, implying an important role for odorant-evoked temporal dynamics in behavioral odorant discrimination.
Odorants are represented as spatiotemporal patterns of spikes in neurons of the antennal lobe (AL, insects) and olfactory bulb (OB, vertebrates). These response patterns have been thought to arise primarily from interactions within the AL/OB, an idea supported, in part, by the assumption that olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) respond to odorants with simple firing patterns. However, activating the AL directly with simple pulses of current evoked responses in AL neurons that were much less diverse, complex, and enduring than responses elicited by odorants. Similarly, models of the AL driven by simplistic inputs generated relatively simple output. How then are dynamic neural codes for odors generated? Consistent with recent results from several other species, our recordings from locust ORNs showed a great diversity of temporal structure. Further, we found that, viewed as a population, many response features of ORNs were remarkably similar to those observed within the AL. Using a set of computational models constrained by our electrophysiological recordings, we found that the temporal heterogeneity of responses of ORNs critically underlies the generation of spatiotemporal odor codes in the AL. A test then performed in vivo confirmed that, given temporally homogeneous input, the AL cannot create diverse spatiotemporal patterns on its own; however, given temporally heterogeneous input, the AL generated realistic firing patterns. Finally, given the temporally structured input provided by ORNs, we clarified several separate, additional contributions of the AL to olfactory information processing. Thus, our results demonstrate the origin and subsequent reformatting of spatiotemporal neural codes for odors.
temporal; spike trains; sensory neurons; chemosensory; input; interneurons; antenna
In a variety of neuronal systems it has been hypothesized that inhibitory interneurons corral principal neurons into synchronously firing groups that encode sensory information and sub-serve behavior (Buzsáki and Chrobak, 1995; Buzsáki, 2008). This mechanism is particularly relevant to the olfactory system where spatiotemporal patterns of projection neuron (PN) activity act as robust markers of odor attributes (Laurent et al., 1996; Wehr and Laurent, 1996). In the insect antennal lobe (AL), a network of local inhibitory interneurons arborizes extensively throughout the AL (Leitch and Laurent, 1996) providing inhibitory input to the cholinergic PNs. Our theoretical work has attempted to elaborate the exact role of inhibition in the generation of odor specific PN responses (Bazhenov et al., 2001a,b; Assisi et al., 2011). In large-scale AL network models we characterized the inhibitory sub-network by its coloring (Assisi et al., 2011) and showed that it can entrain excitatory PNs to the odor specific patterns of transient synchronization. In this focused review, we further examine the dynamics of entrainment in more detail by simulating simple model networks in various parameter regimes. Our simulations in conjunction with earlier studies point to the key role played by lateral (between inhibitory interneurons) and feedback (from inhibitory interneurons to principal cells) inhibition in the generation of experimentally observed patterns of transient synchrony.
inhibition; network; coloring; transient synchrony; olfaction; antennal lobe
The locust olfactory system interfaces with the external world through antennal receptor neurons (ORNs), which represent odors in a distributed, combinatorial manner. ORN axons bundle together to form the antennal nerve, which relays sensory information centrally to the antennal lobe (AL). Within the AL, an odor generates a dynamically evolving ensemble of active cells, leading to a stimulus-specific temporal progression of neuronal spiking. This experimental observation has led to the hypothesis that an odor is encoded within the AL by a dynamically evolving trajectory of projection neuron (PN) activity that can be decoded piecewise to ascertain odor identity. In order to study information coding within the locust AL, we developed a scaled-down model of the locust AL using Hodgkin–Huxley-type neurons and biologically realistic connectivity parameters and current components. Using our model, we examined correlations in the precise timing of spikes across multiple neurons, and our results suggest an alternative to the dynamic trajectory hypothesis. We propose that the dynamical interplay of fast and slow inhibition within the locust AL induces temporally stable correlations in the spiking activity of an odor-dependent neural subset, giving rise to a temporal binding code that allows rapid stimulus detection by downstream elements.
antennal lobe; temporal binding; computational neuroscience; odor coding; slow temporal patterns; oscillations; synchrony; time scales of inhibition
Sparse coding presents practical advantages for sensory representations and memory storage. In the insect olfactory system, the representation of general odors is dense in the antennal lobes but sparse in the mushroom bodies, only one synapse downstream. In locusts, this transformation relies on the oscillatory structure of antennal lobe output, feed-forward inhibitory circuits, intrinsic properties of mushroom body neurons, and connectivity between antennal lobe and mushroom bodies. Here we show the existence of a normalizing negative feedback loop within the mushroom body to maintain sparse output over a wide range of input conditions. This loop consists of an identifiable “giant” nonspiking inhibitory interneuron with ubiquitous connectivity and graded release properties.
Olfactory systems create representations of the chemical world in the animal brain. Recordings of odour-evoked activity in the primary olfactory centres of vertebrates and insects have suggested similar rules for odour processing, in particular through spatial organization of chemical information in their functional units, the glomeruli. Similarity between odour representations can be extracted from across-glomerulus patterns in a wide range of species, from insects to vertebrates, but comparison of odour similarity in such diverse taxa has not been addressed. In the present study, we asked how 11 aliphatic odorants previously tested in honeybees and rats are represented in the antennal lobe of the ant Camponotus fellah, a social insect that relies on olfaction for food search and social communication.
Using calcium imaging of specifically-stained second-order neurons, we show that these odours induce specific activity patterns in the ant antennal lobe. Using multidimensional analysis, we show that clustering of odours is similar in ants, bees and rats. Moreover, odour similarity is highly correlated in all three species.
This suggests the existence of similar coding rules in the neural olfactory spaces of species among which evolutionary divergence happened hundreds of million years ago.
The transient oscillatory model of odor identity encoding seeks to explain how odorants with spatially overlapped patterns of input into primary olfactory networks can be discriminated. This model provides several testable predictions about the distributed nature of network oscillations and how they control spike timing. To test these predictions, 16 channel electrode arrays were placed within the antennal lobe (AL) of the moth Manduca sexta. Unitary spiking and multi site local field potential (LFP) recordings were made during spontaneous activity and in response to repeated presentations of an odor panel. We quantified oscillatory frequency, cross correlations between LFP recording sites, and spike–LFP phase relationships. We show that odor-driven AL oscillations in Manduca are frequency modulating (FM) from ∼100 to 30 Hz; this was odorant and stimulus duration dependent. FM oscillatory responses were localized to one or two recording sites suggesting a localized (perhaps glomerular) not distributed source. LFP cross correlations further demonstrated that only a small (r < 0.05) distributed and oscillatory component was present. Cross spectral density analysis demonstrated the frequency of these weakly distributed oscillations was state dependent (spontaneous activity = 25–55 Hz; odor-driven = 55–85 Hz). Surprisingly, vector strength analysis indicated that unitary phase locking of spikes to the LFP was strongest during spontaneous activity and dropped significantly during responses. Application of bicuculline, a GABAA receptor antagonist, significantly lowered the frequency content of odor-driven distributed oscillatory activity. Bicuculline significantly reduced spike phase locking generally, but the ubiquitous pattern of increased phase locking during spontaneous activity persisted. Collectively, these results indicate that oscillations perform poorly as a stimulus-mediated spike synchronizing mechanism for Manduca and hence are incongruent with the transient oscillatory model.
olfaction; odor coding; oscillations; synchrony; GABAA; olfactory bulb; antennal lobe
Successful cooperation depends on reliable identification of friends and foes. Social insects discriminate colony members (nestmates/friends) from foreign workers (non-nestmates/foes) by colony-specific, multi-component colony odors. Traditionally, complex processing in the brain has been regarded as crucial for colony recognition. Odor information is represented as spatial patterns of activity and processed in the primary olfactory neuropile, the antennal lobe (AL) of insects, which is analogous to the vertebrate olfactory bulb. Correlative evidence indicates that the spatial activity patterns reflect odor-quality, i.e., how an odor is perceived. For colony odors, alternatively, a sensory filter in the peripheral nervous system was suggested, causing specific anosmia to nestmate colony odors. Here, we investigate neuronal correlates of colony odors in the brain of a social insect to directly test whether they are anosmic to nestmate colony odors and whether spatial activity patterns in the AL can predict how odor qualities like “friend” and “foe” are attributed to colony odors.
Using ant dummies that mimic natural conditions, we presented colony odors and investigated their neuronal representation in the ant Camponotus floridanus. Nestmate and non-nestmate colony odors elicited neuronal activity: In the periphery, we recorded sensory responses of olfactory receptor neurons (electroantennography), and in the brain, we measured colony odor specific spatial activity patterns in the AL (calcium imaging). Surprisingly, upon repeated stimulation with the same colony odor, spatial activity patterns were variable, and as variable as activity patterns elicited by different colony odors.
Ants are not anosmic to nestmate colony odors. However, spatial activity patterns in the AL alone do not provide sufficient information for colony odor discrimination and this finding challenges the current notion of how odor quality is coded. Our result illustrates the enormous challenge for the nervous system to classify multi-component odors and indicates that other neuronal parameters, e.g., precise timing of neuronal activity, are likely necessary for attribution of odor quality to multi-component odors.
The insect mushroom bodies are higher-order brain centers and critical for odor learning. We investigated experience dependent plasticity of their intrinsic neurons, the Kenyon cells (KCs). Using calcium imaging, we recorded KC responses and investigated non-associative plasticity by applying repeated odor stimuli. Associative plasticity was examined by performing appetitive odor learning experiments. Olfactory, gustatory and tactile antennal stimuli evoked phasic calcium transients in sparse ensembles of responding KCs. Repeated stimulation with an odor led to a decrease in KCs' response strength. The pairing of an odor (conditioned stimulus, CS) with a sucrose reward (unconditioned stimulus) induced a prolongation of KC responses. After conditioning, KC responses to a rewarded odor (CS+) recovered from repetition-induced decrease, while the responses to a non-rewarded odor (CS−) decreased further. The spatio-temporal pattern of activated KCs changed for both odors when compared with the response before conditioning but the change was stronger for the CS−. These results demonstrate that KC responses are subject to non-associative plasticity during odor repetition and undergo associative plasticity after appetitive odor learning.
odor learning; mushroom body; neural plasticity; insect; honeybee; calcium imaging
Plasticity in the honeybee brain has been studied using the appetitive olfactory conditioning of the proboscis extension reflex, in which a bee learns the association between an odor and a sucrose reward. In this framework, coupling behavioral measurements of proboscis extension and invasive recordings of neural activity has been difficult because proboscis movements usually introduce brain movements that affect physiological preparations. Here we took advantage of a new conditioning protocol, the aversive olfactory conditioning of the sting extension reflex, which does not generate this problem. We achieved the first simultaneous recordings of conditioned sting extension responses and calcium imaging of antennal lobe activity, thus revealing on-line processing of olfactory information during conditioning trials. Based on behavioral output we distinguished learners and non-learners and analyzed possible learning-dependent changes in antennal lobe activity. We did not find differences between glomerular responses to the CS+ and the CS− in learners. Unexpectedly, we found that during conditioning trials non-learners exhibited a progressive decrease in physiological responses to odors, irrespective of their valence. This effect could neither be attributed to a fitness problem nor to abnormal dye bleaching. We discuss the absence of learning-induced changes in the antennal lobe of learners and the decrease in calcium responses found in non-learners. Further studies will have to extend the search for functional plasticity related to aversive learning to other brain areas and to look on a broader range of temporal scales.
learning; memory; aversive conditioning; antennal lobe; calcium imaging; honeybee; Apis mellifera; sting extension reflex
The insect olfactory system can be a model for artificial olfactory devices. In particular, Drosophila melanogaster due to its genetic tractability has yielded much information about the design and function of such systems in biology. In this study we investigate possible network topologies to separate representations of odors in the primary olfactory neuropil, the antennal lobe. In particular we compare networks based on stochastic and homogeneous connection weight distributions to connectivities that are based on the input correlations between the glomeruli in the antennal lobe. We show that moderate homogeneous inhibition implements a soft winner-take-all mechanism when paired with realistic input from a large meta-database of odor responses in receptor cells (DoOR database). The sparseness of representations increases with stronger inhibition. Excitation, on the other hand, pushes the representation of odors closer together thus making them harder to distinguish. We further analyze the relationship between different inhibitory network topologies and the properties of the receptor responses to different odors. We show that realistic input from the DoOR database has a relatively high entropy of activation values over all odors and receptors compared to the theoretical maximum. Furthermore, under conditions in which the information in the input is artificially decreased, networks with heterogeneous topologies based on the similarity of glomerular response profiles perform best. These results indicate that in order to arrive at the most beneficial representation for odor discrimination it is important to finely tune the strength of inhibition in combination with taking into account the properties of the available sensors.
olfaction; model; antennal lobe; inhibition; odor separation
An animal navigating to an unseen odor source must accurately resolve the spatiotemporal distribution of that stimulus in order to express appropriate upwind flight behavior. Intermittency of natural odor plumes, caused by air turbulence, is critically important for many insects, including the hawkmoth, Manduca sexta, for odor-modulated search behavior to an odor source. When a moth's antennae receive intermittent odor stimulation, the projection neurons (PNs) in the primary olfactory centers (the antennal lobes), which are analogous to the olfactory bulbs of vertebrates, generate discrete bursts of action potentials separated by periods of inhibition, suggesting that the PNs may use the binary burst/non-burst neural patterns to resolve and enhance the intermittency of the stimulus encountered in the odor plume.
We tested this hypothesis first by establishing that bicuculline methiodide reliably and reversibly disrupted the ability of PNs to produce bursting response patterns. Behavioral studies, in turn, demonstrated that after injecting this drug into the antennal lobe at the effective concentration used in the physiological experiments animals could no longer efficiently locate the odor source, even though they had detected the odor signal.
Our results establish a direct link between the bursting response pattern of PNs and the odor-tracking behavior of the moth, demonstrating the behavioral significance of resolving the dynamics of a natural odor stimulus in antennal lobe circuits.
Despite a remarkably precise spatial representation of odorant stimuli in the early stages of olfactory processing, the projections to the olfactory (piriform) cortex are more diffuse and show characteristics of a combinatorial array, with extensive overlap of afferent inputs and widespread intracortical association connections. Furthermore, although there is increasing evidence for the importance of temporal structure in olfactory bulb odorant-evoked output, little is known about how this temporal patterning is translated within cortical neural ensembles. The present study used multichannel electrode arrays and paired single-unit recordings in rat anterior piriform cortex to test several predictions regarding ensemble coding in this system. The results indicate that odorants evoke activity in a spatially scattered ensemble of anterior piriform cortex neurons, and the ensemble activity includes a rich temporal structure. The most pronounced discrimination between different odorants by cortical ensembles occurs during the first inhalation of a 2 s stimulus. The distributed spatial and temporal structure of cortical activity is present at both global and local scales, with neighboring single units contributing to coding of different odorants and active at different phases of the respiratory cycle. Finally, cross-correlogram analyses suggest that cortical unit activity reflects not only afferent input from the olfactory bulb but also intrinsic activity within the intracortical association fiber system. These results provide direct evidence for predictions stemming from anatomical- and theoretical-based models of piriform cortex.
microelectrode arrays; olfactory cortex; neural ensembles; cross-correlation; olfaction; odor perception; memory
How information encoded in neuronal spike trains is used to guide sensory decisions is a fundamental question. In olfaction, a single sniff is sufficient for fine odor discrimination but the neural representations on which olfactory decisions are based are unclear. Here, we recorded neural ensemble activity in the anterior piriform cortex (aPC) of rats performing an odor mixture categorization task. We show that odors evoke transient bursts locked to sniff onset and that odor identity can be better decoded using burst spike counts than by spike latencies or temporal patterns. Surprisingly, aPC ensembles also exhibited near-zero noise correlations during odor stimulation. Consequently, fewer than 100 aPC neurons provided sufficient information to account for behavioral speed and accuracy, suggesting that behavioral performance limits arise downstream of aPC. These findings demonstrate profound transformations in the dynamics of odor representations from the olfactory bulb to cortex and reveal likely substrates for odor-guided decisions.
Here we describe several fundamental principles of olfactory processing in the Drosophila antennal lobe (the analog of the vertebrate olfactory bulb), based on a systematic analysis of input and output spike trains of seven identified glomeruli. Repeated presentations of the same odor elicit more reproducible responses in second-order projection neurons (PNs) than in their presynaptic olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs). PN responses rise and accommodate rapidly, emphasizing odor onset. Furthermore, weak ORN inputs are amplified in the PN layer but strong inputs are not. This nonlinear transformation broadens PN tuning, and produces more uniform distances between odor representations in PN coding space. Additionally, a portion of a PN’s odor response profile is not systematically related to its direct ORN inputs, likely reflecting lateral connections between glomeruli. Finally, we show that a linear discriminator classifies odors more accurately using PN spike trains as compared to an equivalent number of ORN spike trains.
In Drosophila the fruit fly, coincident exposure to an odor and an aversive electric shock can produce robust behavioral memory. This behavioral memory is thought to be regulated by cellular memory traces within the central nervous system of the fly. These molecular, physiological or structural changes in neurons, induced by pairing odor and shock, regulate behavior by altering the neurons’ response to the learned environment. Recently, novel in vivo functional imaging techniques have allowed researchers to observe cellular memory traces in intact animals. These investigations have revealed interesting temporal and spatial dynamics of cellular memory traces. First, a short-term cellular memory trace was discovered that exists in the antennal lobe, an early site of olfactory processing. This trace represents the recruitment of new synaptic activity into the odor representation and forms for only a short period of time just after training. Second, an intermediate-term cellular memory trace was found in the dorsal paired medial neuron, a neuron thought to play a role in stabilizing olfactory memories. Finally, a long-term protein synthesis-dependent cellular memory trace was discovered in the mushroom bodies, a structure long implicated in olfactory learning and memory. Therefore, it appears that aversive olfactory associations are encoded by multiple cellular memory traces that occur in different regions of the brain with different temporal domains.
Drosophila; mushroom body; olfactory learning; memory trace