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1.  Antennal lobe representations are optimized when olfactory stimuli are periodically structured to simulate natural wing beat effects 
Animals use behaviors to actively sample the environment across a broad spectrum of sensory domains. These behaviors discretize the sensory experience into unique spatiotemporal moments, minimize sensory adaptation, and enhance perception. In olfaction, behaviors such as sniffing, antennal flicking, and wing beating all act to periodically expose olfactory epithelium. In mammals, it is thought that sniffing enhances neural representations; however, the effects of insect wing beating on representations remain unknown. To determine how well the antennal lobe (AL) produces odor dependent representations when wing beating effects are simulated, we used extracellular methods to record neural units and local field potentials (LFPs) from moth AL. We recorded responses to odors presented as prolonged continuous stimuli or periodically as 20 and 25 Hz pulse trains designed to simulate the oscillating effects of wing beating around the antennae during odor guided flight. Using spectral analyses, we show that ~25% of all recorded units were able to entrain to “pulsed stimuli”; this includes pulsed blanks, which elicited the strongest overall entrainment. The strength of entrainment to pulse train stimuli was dependent on molecular features of the odorants, odor concentration, and pulse train duration. Moreover, units showing pulse tracking responses were highly phase locked to LFPs during odor stimulation, indicating that unit-LFP phase relationships are stimulus-driven. Finally, a Euclidean distance-based population vector analysis established that AL odor representations are more robust, peak more quickly, and do not show adaptation when odors were presented at the natural wing beat frequency as opposed to prolonged continuous stimulation. These results suggest a general strategy for optimizing olfactory representations, which exploits the natural rhythmicity of wing beating by integrating mechanosensory and olfactory cues at the level of the AL.
PMCID: PMC4053783  PMID: 24971052
olfaction; temporal coding; oscillations; synchrony; active sensing; sniffing; odor representation
2.  Genes Involved in Sex Pheromone Discrimination in Drosophila melanogaster and Their Background-Dependent Effect 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30799.
Mate choice is based on the comparison of the sensory quality of potential mating partners, and sex pheromones play an important role in this process. In Drosophila melanogaster, contact pheromones differ between male and female in their content and in their effects on male courtship, both inhibitory and stimulatory. To investigate the genetic basis of sex pheromone discrimination, we experimentally selected males showing either a higher or lower ability to discriminate sex pheromones over 20 generations. This experimental selection was carried out in parallel on two different genetic backgrounds: wild-type and desat1 mutant, in which parental males showed high and low sex pheromone discrimination ability respectively. Male perception of male and female pheromones was separately affected during the process of selection. A comparison of transcriptomic activity between high and low discrimination lines revealed genes not only that varied according to the starting genetic background, but varied reciprocally. Mutants in two of these genes, Shaker and quick-to-court, were capable of producing similar effects on discrimination on their own, in some instances mimicking the selected lines, in others not. This suggests that discrimination of sex pheromones depends on genes whose activity is sensitive to genetic context and provides a rare, genetically defined example of the phenomenon known as “allele flips,” in which interactions have reciprocal effects on different genetic backgrounds.
PMCID: PMC3264623  PMID: 22292044
3.  Incipient speciation in Drosophila melanogaster involves chemical signals 
Scientific Reports  2012;2:224.
The sensory and genetic bases of incipient speciation between strains of Drosophila melanogaster from Zimbabwe and those from elsewhere are unknown. We studied mating behaviour between eight strains – six from Zimbabwe, together with two cosmopolitan strains. The Zimbabwe strains showed significant sexual isolation when paired with cosmopolitan males, due to Zimbabwe females discriminating against these males. Our results show that flies' cuticular hydrocarbons (CHs) were involved in this sexual isolation, but that visual and acoustic signals were not. The mating frequency of Zimbabwe females was highly significantly negatively correlated with the male's relative amount of 7-tricosene (%7-T), while the mating of cosmopolitan females was positively correlated with %7-T. Variation in transcription levels of two hydrocarbon-determining genes, desat1 and desat2, did not correlate with the observed mating patterns. Our study represents a step forward in our understanding of the sensory processes involved in this classic case of incipient speciation.
PMCID: PMC3261631  PMID: 22355738

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