Mammals can perceive and discriminate myriad volatile chemicals as having a distinct odor. Odorants are initially detected by odorant receptors (ORs) on olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) in the nose. In the mouse, each OSN expresses one of ∼1000 different OR genes. Although OSNs and their expressed ORs constitute the fundamental units of sensory input to the brain, a comprehensive understanding of how they encode odor identities is still lacking. To gain a broader and more detailed understanding of odorant recognition and odor coding at this level, we tested the responses of 3000 mouse OSNs to 125 odorants with diverse structures and perceived odors. These studies revealed extraordinary diversity, but also bias, in odorant recognition by the OSN, and thus OR, repertoire. They indicate that most OSNs are narrowly tuned to detect a subset of odorants with related structures and often related odors, but that the repertoire also includes broadly tuned components. Strikingly, the vast majority of odorants activated a unique set of OSNs, usually two or more in combination. The resulting combinatorial codes varied in size among odorants and sometimes contained both narrowly and broadly tuned components. While many OSNs recognized multiple odorants, some appeared specific for a given pheromone or other animal-associated compound, or for one or more odorants with a particular odor quality, raising the possibility that signals derived from some OSNs and ORs might elicit an innate behavior or convey a specific odor quality.
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.
Olfactory system second-order neurons, mitral–tufted cells, have odorant receptive fields (ORFs) (molecular receptive ranges in odorant space for carbon chain length in organic odorant molecules). This study quantified several dimensions of these excitatory odorant receptive fields to novel odorants in rats and then examined the effects of passive odorant exposure on the shape of the ORF-tuning curve. ORFs for carbon chain length of novel ethyl esters (pure odorants that the animals had not been exposed to previously) were determined before and after a 50 sec prolonged exposure to one of the odorants. In response to novel odorants, quantitative analysis of mitral–tufted cell excitatory ORFs revealed that the median ORF width spanned 3–4 carbons, generally with a single-most excitatory odorant. Exposure to either the most excitatory odorant (ON-PEAK) or an odorant that was two carbons longer (OFF-PEAK) for 50 sec produced whole ORF suppression immediately after the end of the prolonged exposure, with the ON-PEAK exposure producing the greatest suppression. These results are consistent with a feature-detecting function for mitral–tufted cells. Redetermination of the ORF 15 and 60 min after the exposure revealed that OFF-PEAK exposure produced a reduction in responsiveness to the best odorant and an increase in responsiveness to the exposed odorant. In contrast, exposure to the ON-PEAK odorant or no odorant did not affect ORFs. Given that mitral–tufted cells receive exclusive excitatory input from olfactory receptor neurons expressing identical receptor proteins, it is hypothesized that experience-induced mitral–tufted cell ORF changes reflect modulation of lateral and centrifugal olfactory bulb circuits.
perceptual learning; olfactory memory; receptive field; odor coding; dynamic processing; mitral cell; habituation; adaptation; odorant receptive fields
In sensory processing of odors, the olfactory bulb is an important relay station, where odor representations are noise-filtered, sharpened, and possibly re-organized. An organization by perceptual qualities has been found previously in the piriform cortex, however several recent studies indicate that the olfactory bulb code reflects behaviorally relevant dimensions spatially as well as at the population level. We apply a statistical analysis on 2-deoxyglucose images, taken over the entire bulb of glomerular layer of the rat, in order to see how the recognition of odors in the nose is translated into a map of odor quality in the brain. We first confirm previous studies that the first principal component could be related to pleasantness, however the next higher principal components are not directly clear. We then find mostly continuous spatial representations for perceptual categories. We compare the space spanned by spatial and population codes to human reports of perceptual similarity between odors and our results suggest that perceptual categories could be already embedded in glomerular activations and that spatial representations give a better match than population codes. This suggests that human and rat perceptual dimensions of odorant coding are related and indicates that perceptual qualities could be represented as continuous spatial codes of the olfactory bulb glomerulus population.
olfaction; olfactory bulb; glomeruli; spatial coding; population coding; memory organization; odor quality; perception
The mammalian olfactory system is able to discriminate among tens of thousands of odorant molecules. In mice, each odorant is sensed by a small subset of the approximately 1,000 odorant receptor (OR) types, with one OR gene expressed by each olfactory sensory neuron (OSN). However, the sum of the large repertoire of OR/OSN types and difficulties with heterologous expression have made it almost impossible to analyze odorant responsiveness across all OR/OSN types. We have developed a microfluidic approach that allowed us to screen over 20,000 single cells at once in microwells. By using calcium imaging, we were able to detect and analyze odorant responses of about 2,900 OSNs simultaneously. Importantly, this technique allows for both the detection of rare responding OSNs as well as the identification of OSN populations broadly responsive to odorants of unrelated structures. This technique is generally applicable for screening large numbers of single cells and should help to characterize rare cell behaviors in fields such as toxicology, pharmacology, and cancer research.
Perceptual learning has been demonstrated in several thalamocortical sensory systems wherein experience enhances sensory acuity for trained stimuli. This perceptual learning is believed to be dependent on changes in sensory cortical receptive fields. Sensory experience and learning also modifies receptive fields and neural response patterns in the mammalian olfactory system; however, to date there has been little reported evidence of learned changes in behavioral olfactory acuity. The present report used a bradycardial orienting response and cross-habituation paradigm that allowed assessment of behavioral discrimination of nearly novel odorants, and then used the same paradigm to examine odorant discrimination after associative olfactory conditioning with similar or dissimilar odorants. The results demonstrate that associative conditioning can enhance olfactory acuity for odors that are the same as or similar to the learned odorant, but not for odors dissimilar to the learned odorant. Furthermore, scopolamine injected before associative conditioning can block the acquisition of this learned enhancement in olfactory acuity. These results could have important implications for mechanisms of olfactory perception and memory, as well as for correlating behavioral olfactory acuity with observed spatial representations of odorant features in the olfactory system.
adaptation; perceptual learning; piriform cortex; olfaction; olfactory memory; scopolamine
Olfactory sensory information passes through several processing stages before an odor percept emerges. The question how the olfactory system learns to create odor representations linking those different levels and how it learns to connect and discriminate between them is largely unresolved. We present a large-scale network model with single and multi-compartmental Hodgkin–Huxley type model neurons representing olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) in the epithelium, periglomerular cells, mitral/tufted cells and granule cells in the olfactory bulb (OB), and three types of cortical cells in the piriform cortex (PC). Odor patterns are calculated based on affinities between ORNs and odor stimuli derived from physico-chemical descriptors of behaviorally relevant real-world odorants. The properties of ORNs were tuned to show saturated response curves with increasing concentration as seen in experiments. On the level of the OB we explored the possibility of using a fuzzy concentration interval code, which was implemented through dendro-dendritic inhibition leading to winner-take-all like dynamics between mitral/tufted cells belonging to the same glomerulus. The connectivity from mitral/tufted cells to PC neurons was self-organized from a mutual information measure and by using a competitive Hebbian–Bayesian learning algorithm based on the response patterns of mitral/tufted cells to different odors yielding a distributed feed-forward projection to the PC. The PC was implemented as a modular attractor network with a recurrent connectivity that was likewise organized through Hebbian–Bayesian learning. We demonstrate the functionality of the model in a one-sniff-learning and recognition task on a set of 50 odorants. Furthermore, we study its robustness against noise on the receptor level and its ability to perform concentration invariant odor recognition. Moreover, we investigate the pattern completion capabilities of the system and rivalry dynamics for odor mixtures.
pattern recognition; olfactory bulb; piriform cortex; large-scale neuromorphic systems; spiking neural network; BCPNN; concentration invariance; pattern rivalry
Neural activity underlying odor representations in the mammalian olfactory system is strongly patterned by respiratory behavior; these dynamics are central to many models of olfactory information processing. We have previously found that sensory inputs to the olfactory bulb change both their magnitude and temporal structure as a function of sniff frequency. Here, we asked how sniff frequency affects responses of mitral/tufted (MT) cells – the principal olfactory bulb output neuron. We recorded from MT cells in anesthetized rats while reproducing sniffs recorded previously from awake animals and varying sniff frequency. The dynamics of a sniff-evoked response were consistent from sniff to sniff but varied across cells. Compared to the dynamics of receptor neuron activation by the same sniffs, the MT response was shorter and faster, reflecting a temporal sharpening of sensory inputs. Increasing sniff frequency led to moderate attenuation of MT response magnitude and significant changes in the temporal structure of the sniff-evoked MT cell response. Most MT cells responded with a shorter duration and shorter rise-time spike burst as sniff frequency increased, reflecting increased temporal sharpening of inputs by the olfactory bulb. These temporal changes were necessary and sufficient to maintain respiratory modulation in the MT cell population across the range of sniff frequencies expressed during behavior. These results suggest that the input-output relationship in the olfactory bulb varies dynamically as a function of sniff frequency, and that one function of the postsynaptic network is to maintain robust temporal encoding of odor information across different odor sampling strategies.
In this article, we analyze the ability of the early olfactory system to detect and discriminate different odors by means of information theory measurements applied to olfactory bulb activity images. We have studied the role that the diversity and number of receptor neuron types play in encoding chemical information. Our results show that the olfactory receptors of the biological system are low correlated and present good coverage of the input space. The coding capacity of ensembles of olfactory receptors with the same receptive range is maximized when the receptors cover half of the odor input space - a configuration that corresponds to receptors that are not particularly selective. However, the ensemble’s performance slightly increases when mixing uncorrelated receptors of different receptive ranges. Our results confirm that the low correlation between sensors could be more significant than the sensor selectivity for general purpose chemo-sensory systems, whether these are biological or biomimetic.
It is widely presumed that odor quality is a direct outcome of odorant
structure, but human studies indicate that molecular knowledge of an odorant is
not always sufficient to predict odor quality. Indeed, the same olfactory input
may generate different odor percepts depending on prior learning and experience.
Combining functional magnetic resonance imaging with an olfactory paradigm of
perceptual learning, we examined how sensory experience modifies odor perception
and odor quality coding in the human brain. Prolonged exposure to a target
odorant enhanced perceptual differentiation for odorants related in odor quality
or functional group, an effect that was paralleled by learning-induced response
increases in piriform cortex and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Critically, the
magnitude of OFC activation predicted subsequent improvement in behavioral
differentiation. Our findings suggest that neural representations of odor
quality can be rapidly updated through mere perceptual experience, a mechanism
that may underlie the development of odor perception.
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.
Sensory systems must map accurate representations of the external world in the brain. Although the physical senses of touch and vision build topographic representations of the spatial coordinates of the body and the field of view, the chemical sense of olfaction maps discontinuous features of chemical space, comprising an extremely large number of possible odor stimuli. In both mammals and insects, olfactory circuits are wired according to the convergence of axons from sensory neurons expressing the same odorant receptor. Synapses are organized into distinctive spherical neuropils—the olfactory glomeruli—that connect sensory input with output neurons and local modulatory interneurons. Although there is a strong conservation of form in the olfactory maps of mammals and insects, they arise using divergent mechanisms. Olfactory glomeruli provide a unique solution to the problem of mapping discontinuous chemical space onto the brain.
The axons of neurons expressing the same odorant receptor converge at distinct glomeruli in the brain. These connect sensory input with output and modulator neurons, allowing the brain to map chemical space.
We analyze the responses of human observers to an ensemble of monomolecular odorants. Each odorant is characterized by a set of 146 perceptual descriptors obtained from a database of odor character profiles. Each odorant is therefore represented by a point in a highly multidimensional sensory space. In this work we study the arrangement of odorants in this perceptual space. We argue that odorants densely sample a two-dimensional curved surface embedded in the multidimensional sensory space. This surface can account for more than half of the variance of the perceptual data. We also show that only 12% of experimental variance cannot be explained by curved surfaces of substantially small dimensionality (<10). We suggest that these curved manifolds represent the relevant spaces sampled by the human olfactory system, thereby providing surrogates for olfactory sensory space. For the case of 2D approximation, we relate the two parameters on the curved surface to the physico-chemical parameters of odorant molecules. We show that one of the dimensions is related to eigenvalues of molecules’ connectivity matrix, while the other is correlated with measures of molecules’ polarity. We discuss the behavioral significance of these findings.
olfaction; profiling; sensory space; perception
In many species sensory stimuli elicit the oscillatory synchronization of groups of neurons. What determines the properties of these oscillations? In the olfactory system of the moth we found that odors elicited oscillatory synchronization through a neural mechanism like that described in locust and Drosophila. During responses to long odor pulses, oscillations suddenly slowed as net olfactory receptor neuron (ORN) output decreased; thus, stimulus intensity appeared to determine oscillation frequency. However, changing the concentration of the odor had little effect upon oscillatory frequency. Our recordings in vivo and computational models based on these results suggested the main effect of increasing odor concentration was to recruit additional, less well-tuned ORNs whose firing rates were tightly constrained by adaptation and saturation. Thus, in the periphery, concentration is encoded mainly by the size of the responsive ORN population, and oscillation frequency is set by the adaptation and saturation of this response.
The peptide hormone adiponectin is secreted by adipose tissue and the circulating concentration is reversely correlated with body fat mass; it is considered as starvation signal. The observation that mature sensory neurons of the main olfactory epithelium express the adiponectin receptor 1 has led to the concept that adiponectin may affect the responsiveness of the olfactory system. In fact, electroolfactogram recordings from olfactory epithelium incubated with exogenous adiponectin resulted in large amplitudes upon odor stimulation. To determine whether the responsiveness of the olfactory sensory neurons was enhanced, we have monitored the odorant-induced expression of the immediate early gene Egr1. It was found that in an olfactory epithelium incubated with nasally applied adiponectin the number of Egr1 positive cells was significantly higher compared to controls, suggesting that adiponectin rendered the olfactory neurons more responsive to an odorant stimulus. To analyze whether the augmented responsiveness of sensory neurons was strong enough to elicit a higher neuronal activity in the olfactory bulb, the number of activated periglomerular cells of a distinct glomerulus was determined by monitoring the stimulus-induced expression of c-fos. The studies were performed using the transgenic mOR256-17-IRES-tauGFP mice which allowed to visualize the corresponding glomerulus and to stimulate with a known ligand. The data indicate that upon exposure to 2,3-hexanedione in adiponectin-treated mice the number of activated periglomerular neurons was significantly increased compared to controls. The results of this study indicate that adiponectin increases the responsiveness of the olfactory system, probably due to a higher responsiveness of olfactory sensory neurons.
To gain insight into which parameters of neural activity are important in shaping the perception of odors, we combined a behavioral measure of odor perception with optical imaging of odor representations at the level of receptor neuron input to the rat olfactory bulb. Instead of the typical test of an animal's ability to discriminate two familiar odorants by exhibiting an operant response, we used a spontaneously expressed response to a novel odorant—exploratory sniffing—as a measure of odor perception. This assay allowed us to measure the speed with which rats perform spontaneous odor discriminations. With this paradigm, rats discriminated and began responding to a novel odorant in as little as 140 ms. This time is comparable to that measured in earlier studies using operant behavioral readouts after extensive training. In a subset of these trials, we simultaneously imaged receptor neuron input to the dorsal olfactory bulb with near-millisecond temporal resolution as the animal sampled and then responded to the novel odorant. The imaging data revealed that the bulk of the discrimination time can be attributed to the peripheral events underlying odorant detection: receptor input arrives at the olfactory bulb 100–150 ms after inhalation begins, leaving only 50–100 ms for central processing and response initiation. In most trials, odor discrimination had occurred even before the initial barrage of receptor neuron firing had ceased and before spatial maps of activity across glomeruli had fully developed. These results suggest a coding strategy in which the earliest-activated glomeruli play a major role in the initial perception of odor quality, and place constraints on coding and processing schemes based on simple changes in spike rate.
Olfactory stimuli elicit temporally complex patterns of activity across groups of receptor neurons as well as across central neurons. It remains unclear which parameters among these complex activity patterns are important in shaping odor perception. To address this issue, we imaged from the olfactory bulb of awake rats as they detected and responded to odorants. We used a spontaneously expressed response to novel odorants—exploratory sniffing—as a behavioral measure of odor perception. This assay allowed us to measure the speed with which rats perform simple odor discriminations by monitoring changes in respiration. Rats discriminated a novel odorant from a learned one in as little as 140 ms. Simultaneously imaging the sensory input to the olfactory bulb carried by receptor neurons revealed that the bulk of the response time is due to the peripheral events underlying odorant detection (inhalation and receptor neuron activation), leaving only 50–100 ms for central processing and response initiation. In most trials, responses to a novel odorant began before the initial barrage of input had ceased and before spatial patterns of input to the bulb had fully developed. These results suggest a coding strategy in which the earliest inputs play a major role in the initial perception of odor quality and place constraints on coding schemes based on simple changes in firing rate.
Imaging the olfactory bulb of awake rats reveals that odor discrimination occurs about 100 ms after sensory input reaches the brain, sharply limiting the role that spike rate and temporal integration can play in coding odor identity.
Turbulent fluid landscapes impose temporal patterning upon chemical signals, and the dynamical neuronal responses to patterned input vary across the olfactory receptor repertoire in flies, moths, and locusts. Sensory transformations exhibit low pass filtering that ultimately results in perceptual fusion of temporally transient sensory signals. For example, humans perceive a sufficiently fast flickering light as continuous, but the frequency threshold at which this fusion occurs varies with wavelength. Although the summed frequency sensitivity of the fly antenna has been examined to a considerable extent, it is unknown how intermittent odor signals are integrated to influence plume tracking behavior independent of wind cues, and whether temporal fusion for behavioral tracking might vary according to the odor encountered.
Here we have adopted a virtual reality flight simulator to study the dynamics of plume tracking under different experimental conditions. Flies tethered in a magnetic field actively track continuous (non-intermittent) plumes of vinegar, banana, or ethyl butyrate with equal precision. However, pulsing these plumes at varying frequency reveals that the threshold rate, above which flies track the plume as if it were continuous, is unique for each odorant tested. Thus, the capability of a fly to navigate an intermittent plume depends on the particular odorant being tracked during flight. Finally, we measured antennal field potential responses to an intermittent plume, found that receptor dynamics track the temporal pattern of the odor stimulus and therefore do not limit the observed behavioral temporal fusion limits.
This study explores the flies' ability to track odor plumes that are temporally intermittent. We were surprised to find that the perceptual critical fusion limit, determined behaviorally, is strongly dependent on odor identity. Antennal field potential recordings indicate that peripheral processing of temporal cues faithfully follow rapid odor transients above the rates that can be resolved behaviorally. These results indicate that (1) higher order circuits create a perceptually continuous signal from an intermittent sensory one, and that (2) this transformation varies with odorant rather than being constrained by sensory-motor integration, thus (3) offering an entry point for examining the mechanisms of rapid olfactory decision making in an ecological context.
The olfactory response of the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster to food odor is modulated by starvation. Here we show that this modulation is not restricted to food odors and their detecting sensory neurons but rather increases the behavioral response to odors as different as food odors, repellents and pheromones. The increased behavioral responsiveness is paralleled by an increased physiological sensitivity of sensory neurons regardless whether they express olfactory or ionotropic receptors and regardless whether they are housed in basiconic, coeloconic, or trichoid sensilla. Silencing several genes that become up-regulated under starvation confirmed the involvement of the short neuropeptide f receptor in the starvation effect. In addition it revealed that the CCHamide-1 receptor is another important factor governing starvation-induced olfactory modifications.
An intriguing question in the field of olfaction is how animals distinguish among structurally similar odorants. We systematically analyzed olfactory responses elicited by a panel of 25 pyrazines. We found that structurally similar pyrazines elicit a wide range of behavioral responses from Drosophila larvae. Each pyrazine was tested against all functional receptors of the larval Odor receptor (Or) repertoire, yielding 525 odorant–receptor combinations. Different pyrazines vary markedly in the responses they elicit from the Or repertoire, with most strong responses deriving from two receptors, Or33b and Or59a. Surprisingly, 2-ethylpyrazine and 2-methylpyrazine, which elicit strikingly similar physiological responses across the receptor repertoire, elicit dramatically different behavioral responses. A small fraction of odorant-receptor combinations elicit remarkably long responses. These responses, which we term “supersustained” responses, are receptor specific and odorant specific, and can last for minutes. Such supersustained responses may prevent olfactory neurons from reporting contemporaneous information about the local odor environment. Odors that elicit such responses could provide a novel means of controlling insect pests and vectors of human disease by impairing the location of human hosts, food sources, and mates.
When prey animals detect the odor of a predator a constellation of fear-related autonomic, endocrine, and behavioral responses rapidly occur to facilitate survival. How olfactory sensory systems process predator odor and channel that information to specific brain circuits is a fundamental issue that is not clearly understood. However, research in the last 15 years has begun to identify some of the essential features of the sensory detection systems and brain structures that underlie predator odor fear. For instance, the main (MOS) and accessory olfactory systems (AOS) detect predator odors and different types of predator odors are sensed by specific receptors located in either the MOS or AOS. However, complex predator chemosignals may be processed by both the MOS and AOS, which complicate our understanding of the specific neural circuits connected directly and indirectly from the MOS and AOS to activate the physiological and behavioral components of unconditioned and conditioned fear. Studies indicate that brain structures including the dorsal periaqueductal gray (DPAG), paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus, and the medial amygdala (MeA) appear to be broadly involved in predator odor induced autonomic activity and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) stress hormone secretion. The MeA also plays a key role in predator odor unconditioned fear behavior and retrieval of contextual fear memory associated with prior predator odor experiences. Other neural structures including the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and the ventral hippocampus (VHC) appear prominently involved in predator odor fear behavior. The basolateral amygdala (BLA), medial hypothalamic nuclei, and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) are also activated by some but not all predator odors. Future research that characterizes how distinct predator odors are uniquely processed in olfactory systems and neural circuits will provide significant insights into the differences of how diverse predator odors activate fear.
predator odor; fear; main and accessory olfactory systems; amygdala; hippocampus; medial hypothalamus; medial prefrontal cortex
Sensory information is often mapped systematically in the brain with neighboring neurons responding to similar stimulus features. The olfactory system represents chemical information as spatial and temporal activity patterns across glomeruli in the olfactory bulb. However, the degree to which chemical features are mapped systematically in the glomerular array has remained controversial. Here, we test the hypothesis that the dual roles of odorant receptors, in axon guidance and odor detection, can serve as a mechanism to map olfactory inputs with respect to their function. We compared the relationship between response specificity and glomerular formation in genetically-defined olfactory sensory neurons expressing variant odorant receptors. We find that sensory neurons with the same odor response profile can be mapped to different regions of the bulb, and that neurons with different response profiles can be mapped to the same glomeruli. Our data demonstrate that the two functions of odorant receptors can be uncoupled, indicating that the mechanisms that map olfactory sensory inputs to glomeruli do so without regard to stimulus specificity.
Olfactory; odorant receptors; mapping; glomeruli; olfactory sensory neuron; electrophysiology
Habituation is a simple form of memory, yet its neurobiological mechanisms are only beginning to be understood in mammals. In the olfactory system, the neural correlates of habituation at a fast experimental timescale involving very short intertrial intervals (tens of seconds) have been shown to depend on synaptic adaptation in olfactory cortex. In contrast, behavioral habituation to odorants on a longer timescale with intertrial intervals of several minutes depends on processes in the olfactory bulb, as demonstrated by pharmacological studies. We here show that behavioral habituation to odorants on this longer timescale has a neuronal activity correlate in the olfactory bulb. Spiking responses of mitral cells in the rat olfactory bulb adapt to, and recover from, repeated odorant stimulation with five-minute intertrial intervals with a timecourse similar to that of behavioral habituation. Moreover, both the behavioral and neuronal effects of odor habituation require functioning NMDA receptors in the olfactory bulb.
Olfaction; habituation; adaptation; bulb; NMDA; rodent
Animals can be innately attracted to certain odorants. Because these attractants are particularly salient, they might be expected to induce relatively strong responses throughout the olfactory pathway, helping animals detect the most relevant odors but limiting flexibility to respond to other odors. Alternatively, specific neural wiring might link innately preferred odors to appropriate behaviors without a need for intensity biases. How nonpheromonal attractants are processed by the general olfactory system remains largely unknown. In the moth Manduca sexta, we studied this with a set of innately preferred host plant odors and other, neutral odors. Electroantennogram recordings showed that, as a population, olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) did not respond with greater intensity to host plant odors, and further local field potential recordings showed that no specific amplification of signals induced by host plant odors occurred between the first olfactory center and the second. Moreover, when odorants were mutually diluted to elicit equally intense output from the ORNs, moths were able to learn to associate all tested odorants equally well with food reward. Together, these results suggest that, although nonpheromonal host plant odors activate broadly distributed responses, they may be linked to attractive behaviors mainly through specific wiring in the brain.
innate preference; insect; mushroom body; odor; olfactory learning; olfactory receptor neuron
In their natural environment, many insects need to identify and evaluate behaviorally relevant odorants on a rich and dynamic olfactory background. Behavioral studies have demonstrated that bees recognize learned odors within <200 ms, indicating a rapid processing of olfactory input in the sensory pathway. We studied the role of the honeybee antennal lobe network in constructing a fast and reliable code of odor identity using in vivo intracellular recordings of individual projection neurons (PNs) and local interneurons (LNs). We found a complementary ensemble code where odor identity is encoded in the spatio-temporal pattern of response latencies as well as in the pattern of activated and inactivated PN firing. This coding scheme rapidly reaches a stable representation within 50–150 ms after stimulus onset. Testing an odor mixture versus its individual compounds revealed different representations in the two morphologically distinct types of lateral- and median PNs (l- and m-PNs). Individual m-PNs mixture responses were dominated by the most effective compound (elemental representation) whereas l-PNs showed suppressed responses to the mixture but not to its individual compounds (synthetic representation). The onset of inhibition in the membrane potential of l-PNs coincided with the responses of putative inhibitory interneurons that responded significantly faster than PNs. Taken together, our results suggest that processing within the LN network of the AL is an essential component of constructing the antennal lobe population code.
antennal lobe; Apis mellifera; latency code; local interneurons; olfaction; odor mixture; projection neurons; temporal coding
Long-term plasticity in sensory systems is usually conceptualized as changing the interpretation of the brain of sensory information, not an alteration of how the sensor itself responds to external stimuli. However, here we demonstrate that, in the adult mouse olfactory system, a 1-week-long exposure to an artificially odorized environment narrows the range of odorants that can induce neurotransmitter release from olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) and reduces the total transmitter release from responsive neurons. In animals heterozygous for the olfactory marker protein (OMP), this adaptive plasticity was strongest in the populations of OSNs that originally responded to the exposure odorant (an ester) and also observed in the responses to a similar odorant (another ester) but had no effect on the responses to odorants dissimilar to the exposure odorant (a ketone and an aldehyde). In contrast, in OMP knock-out mice, odorant exposure reduced the number and amplitude of OSN responses evoked by all four types of odorants equally. The effect of this plasticity is to preferentially sparsen the primary neural representations of common olfactory stimuli, which has the computational benefit of increasing the number of distinct sensory patterns that could be represented in the circuit and might thus underlie the improvements in olfactory discrimination often observed after odorant exposure (Mandairon et al., 2006a). The absence of odorant specificity in this adaptive plasticity in OMP knock-out mice suggests a potential role for this protein in adaptively reshaping OSN responses to function in different environments.