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1.  Synchronous firing of antennal-lobe projection neurons encodes the behaviorally effective ratio of sex-pheromone components in male Manduca sexta 
Olfactory stimuli that are essential to an animal's survival and reproduction are often complex mixtures of volatile organic compounds in characteristic proportions. Here, we investigated how these proportions are encoded in the primary olfactory processing center, the antennal lobe (AL), of male Manduca sexta moths. Two key components of the female's sex pheromone, present in an approximately 2:1 ratio, are processed in each of two neighboring glomeruli in the macroglomerular complex (MGC) of males of this species. In wind-tunnel flight experiments, males exhibited behavioral selectivity for ratios approximating the ratio released by conspecific females. The ratio between components was poorly represented, however, in the firing-rate output of uniglomerular MGC projection neurons (PNs). PN firing rate was mostly insensitive to the ratio between components, and individual PNs did not exhibit a preference for a particular ratio. Recording simultaneously from pairs of PNs in the same glomerulus, we found that the natural ratio between components elicited the most synchronous spikes, and altering the proportion of either component decreased the proportion of synchronous spikes. The degree of synchronous firing between PNs in the same glomerulus thus selectively encodes the natural ratio that most effectively evokes the natural behavioral response to pheromone.
PMCID: PMC3840155  PMID: 24002682
Olfaction; Neural coding; Glomerulus; Pheromone; Neural synchrony
2.  Innate Recognition of Pheromone and Food Odors in Moths: A Common Mechanism in the Antennal Lobe? 
The survival of an animal often depends on an innate response to a particular sensory stimulus. For an adult male moth, two categories of odors are innately attractive: pheromone released by conspecific females, and the floral scents of certain, often co-evolved, plants. These odors consist of multiple volatiles in characteristic mixtures. Here, we review evidence that both categories of odors are processed as sensory objects, and we suggest a mechanism in the primary olfactory center, the antennal lobe (AL), that encodes the configuration of these mixtures and may underlie recognition of innately attractive odors. In the pheromone system, mixtures of two or three volatiles elicit upwind flight. Peripheral changes are associated with behavioral changes in speciation, and suggest the existence of a pattern recognition mechanism for pheromone mixtures in the AL. Moths are similarly innately attracted to certain floral scents. Though floral scents consist of multiple volatiles that activate a broad array of receptor neurons, only a smaller subset, numerically comparable to pheromone mixtures, is necessary and sufficient to elicit behavior. Both pheromone and floral scent mixtures that produce attraction to the odor source elicit synchronous action potentials in particular populations of output (projection) neurons (PNs) in the AL. We propose a model in which the synchronous output of a population of PNs encodes the configuration of an innately attractive mixture, and thus comprises an innate mechanism for releasing odor-tracking behavior. The particular example of olfaction in moths may inform the general question of how sensory objects trigger innate responses.
PMCID: PMC2955495  PMID: 20953251
floral scent; moths; neuroethology; olfaction; pheromone; sensory coding; sensory object; synchrony

Results 1-2 (2)