Understanding central processing requires precise monitoring of neural activity across populations of identified neurons in the intact brain. Here we used recently-optimized variants of the genetically-encoded calcium sensor GCaMP (GCaMP3 and GCaMPG5G) to image activity among genetically- and anatomically-defined neuronal populations in the olfactory bulb (OB), including two types of GABA-ergic interneurons (periglomerular (PG) and short axon (SA) cells) and OB output neurons (mitral/tufted (MT) cells) projecting to piriform cortex. We first established that changes in neuronal spiking can be accurately related to GCaMP fluorescence changes via a simple quantitative relationship over a large dynamic range. We next used in vivo two-photon imaging from individual neurons and epifluorescence signals reflecting population-level activity to investigate the spatiotemporal representation of odorants across these neuron types in anesthetized and awake mice. Under anesthesia, individual PG and SA cells showed temporally simple responses and little spontaneous activity, while MT cells were spontaneously active and showed diverse temporal responses. At the population level, response patterns of PG, SA and MT cells were surprisingly similar to those imaged from sensory inputs, with shared odorant-specific topography across the dorsal OB and inhalation-coupled temporal dynamics. During wakefulness, PG and SA cell responses increased in magnitude but remained temporally simple while those of MT cells changed to complex spatiotemporal patterns reflecting restricted excitation and widespread inhibition. These results point to multiple circuit elements with distinct roles in transforming odor representations in the OB and provide a framework for further dissecting early olfactory processing using optical and genetic tools.
The data reported in the Technical Comments by Fitz et al., Price et al., Tesseur et al., and Veeraraghavalu et al. replicate and validate our central conclusion that bexarotene stimulates the clearance of soluble β-amyloid peptides and results in the reversal of behavioral deficits in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The basis of the inability to reproduce the drug-stimulated microglial-mediated reduction in plaque burden is unexplained. However, we concluded that plaque burden is functionally unrelated to improved cognition and memory elicited by bexarotene.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is associated with impaired clearance of β-amyloid (Aβ) from the brain, a process normally facilitated by apolipoprotein E (apoE). ApoE expression is transcriptionally induced through the action of the nuclear receptors peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor gamma and liver X receptors in coordination with retinoid X receptors (RXRs). Oral administration of the RXR agonist bexarotene to a mouse model of AD resulted in enhanced clearance of soluble Aβ within hours in an apoE-dependent manner. Aβ plaque area was reduced more than 50% within just 72 hours. Furthermore, bexarotene stimulated the rapid reversal of cognitive, social, and olfactory deficits and improved neural circuit function. Thus, RXR activation stimulates physiological Aβ clearance mechanisms, resulting in the rapid reversal of a broad range of Aβ-induced deficits.
Orienting responses are physiological and active behavioral reactions evoked by novel stimulus perception and are critical for survival. We explored whether odor orienting responses are impacted throughout both adulthood and normal and pathological aging in mice. Novel odor investigation (including duration and bout numbers) and its subsequent habituation as assayed in the odor habituation task were preserved in adult C57BL/6J mice up to 12mo of age with <6% variability between age groups in investigation time. Separately, using whole-body plethysmography we found that both spontaneous respiration and odor-evoked sniffing behaviors were strikingly preserved in wildtype (WT) mice up to 26mo of age. In contrast, mice accumulating amyloid-β protein in the brain by means of overexpressing mutations in the human amyloid precursor protein gene (APP) showed preserved spontaneous respiration up to 12mo, but starting at 14mo showed significant differences from WT. Similar to WTs, odor-evoked sniffing was not impacted in APP mice up to 26mo. These results show that odor-orienting responses are minimally impacted throughout aging in mice, and suggest that the olfactomotor network is mostly spared of insults due to aging.
Olfaction; Neurodegeneration; Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid-beta; APP; orienting; respiration
The unique vulnerability of the olfactory system to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) provides a quintessential translational tool for understanding mechanisms of synaptic dysfunction and pathological progression in the disease. Using the Tg2576 mouse model of β-amyloidosis, we show aberrant, hyperactive olfactory network activity begins early in life, prior to detectable behavioral impairments or comparable hippocampal dysfunction and at a time when Aβ deposition is restricted to the olfactory bulb (OB). Hyperactive odor-evoked activity in the piriform cortex (PCX) and increased OB-PCX functional connectivity emerged at a time coinciding with olfactory behavior impairments. This hyperactive activity persisted until later-life when the network converted to a hyporesponsive state. This conversion was Aβ-dependent, as liver-x-receptor agonist treatment to promote Aβ degradation, rescued the hyporesponsive state and olfactory behavior. These data lend evidence to a novel working model of olfactory dysfunction in AD and, complimentary to other recent works, suggest that disease-relevant network dysfunction is highly dynamic and region specific, yet with lasting effects on cognition and behavior.
Neural network; olfactory bulb; olfactory cortex; Amyloid-β; APP
The extensive autophagic-lysosomal pathology in Alzheimer disease (AD) brain has revealed a major defect in the proteolytic clearance of autophagy substrates. Autophagy failure contributes on several levels to AD pathogenesis and has become an important therapeutic target for AD and other neurodegenerative diseases. We recently observed broad therapeutic effects of stimulating autophagic-lysosomal proteolysis in the TgCRND8 mouse model of AD that exhibits defective proteolytic clearance of autophagic substrates, robust intralysosomal amyloid-β peptide (Aβ) accumulation, extracellular β-amyloid deposition and cognitive deficits. By genetically deleting the lysosomal cysteine protease inhibitor, cystatin B (CstB), to selectively restore depressed cathepsin activities, we substantially cleared Aβ, ubiquitinated proteins and other autophagic substrates from autolysosomes/lysosomes and rescued autophagic-lysosomal pathology, as well as reduced total Aβ40/42 levels and extracellular amyloid deposition, highlighting the underappreciated importance of the lysosomal system for Aβ clearance. Most importantly, lysosomal remediation prevented the marked learning and memory deficits in TgCRND8 mice. Our findings underscore the pathogenic significance of autophagic-lysosomal dysfunction in AD and demonstrate the value of reversing this dysfunction as an innovative therapeutic strategy for AD.
autophagy; lysosome; cathepsin; cystatin B; proteolysis; Alzheimer disease; transgenic
This review critically examines progress in understanding the link between Alzheimer’s disease (AD) molecular pathogenesis and behavior, with an emphasis on the impact of amyloid-β. We present the argument that the AD research field requires more multi-faceted analyses into the impacts of Alzheimer’s pathogenesis which combine simultaneous molecular-, circuit-, and behavior-level approaches. Supporting this argument is a review of particular research utilizing similar, ‘systems-level’ methods in mouse models of AD. Related to this, a critique of common physiological and behavioral models is made – highlighting the likely usefulness of more refined and specific tools in understanding the relationship between candidate molecular pathologies and behavioral dysfunction. Finally, we propose challenges for future research which, if met, may greatly extend our current understanding of how AD molecular pathology impacts neural network function and behavior and possibly may lead to refinements in disease therapeutics.
Amyloid-β; APP; cognition; dementia; endocytosis; LTD; LTP; neural connectivity; presenilin; tau; rab5; synapse
The olfactory cortex encompasses several anatomically distinct regions each hypothesized to provide differential representation and processing of specific odors. Studies exploring whether or not the diversity of olfactory bulb input to olfactory cortices has functional meaning, however, are lacking. Here we tested whether two anatomically major olfactory cortical structures, the olfactory tubercle (OT) and piriform cortex (PCX), differ in their neural representation and processing dynamics of a small set of diverse odors by performing in vivo extracellular recordings from the OT and PCX of anesthetized mice. We found a wealth of similarities between structures, including odor-evoked response magnitudes, breadth of odor tuning, and odor-evoked firing latencies. In contrast, only few differences between structures were found, including spontaneous activity rates and odor signal-to-noise ratios. These results suggest that despite major anatomical differences in innervation by olfactory bulb mitral/tufted cells, the basic features of odor representation and processing, at least within this limited odor set, are similar within the OT and PCX. We predict that the olfactory code follows a distributed processing stream in transmitting behaviorally and perceptually-relevant information from low-level stations.
Elucidating the modulators of social behavioral is important in understanding the neural basis of behavior and in developing methods to enhance behavior in cases of disorder. The work here stems from the observation that the Alzheimer’s disease mouse model Tg2576, overexpressing human mutations of the amyloid-β precursor protein gene (APP) fails to construct nests when supplied paper towels in their home cages. Experiments using commercially available cotton nesting material found similar results. Additional experiments revealed that the genotype effect is progressively modulated by age in APP mice but not their WT counterparts. There was no effect of sex on nesting behavior in any group. Finally, this effect was independent of ambient temperature – even when subjected to a cold environment APP mice fail to build nests whereas WT mice do. These results suggest that the APP gene plays a role in affiliative behaviors and are discussed in relation to disorders characteristic of mutations in the APP gene and in affective dysfunction, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Affiliative behavior; Social behavior; Alzheimer’s disease; Amyloid beta; Biomarker
Since its designation in 1896 as a putative olfactory structure, the olfactory tubercle has received little attention in terms of elucidating its role in the processing and perception of odors. Instead, research on the olfactory tubercle has mostly focused on its relationship with the reward system. Here we provide a comprehensive review of research on the olfactory tubercle – with an emphasis on the likely role of this region in olfactory processing and its contributions to perception. Further, we propose several testable hypotheses regarding the likely involvement of the olfactory tubercle in both basic (odor detection, discrimination, parallel processing of olfactory information) and higher-order (social odor processing, hedonics, multi-modal integration) functions. Together, the information within this review highlights an understudied yet potentially critical component in central odor processing.
Arousal; Preference; Reward; Parallel-processing; Basal ganglia; Perception; Sensory integration; Olfactory cortex; Olfactory perception; Olfactory behavior; Sociosexual behavior
Historical and psychophysical literature has demonstrated a perceptual interplay between olfactory and auditory stimuli – the neural mechanisms of which are not understood. Here we report novel findings revealing that the early olfactory code is subjected to auditory cross-modal influences. In vivo extracellular recordings from the olfactory tubercle, a tri-laminar structure within the basal forebrain, of anesthetized mice revealed that olfactory tubercle single-units selectively respond to odors – with 65% of units showing significant odor–evoked activity. Remarkably, 19% of olfactory tubercle single-units also showed robust responses to an auditory tone. Furthermore, 29% of single-units tested displayed supra-additive or suppressive responses to the simultaneous presentation of odor and tone, suggesting cross-modal modulation. In contrast, olfactory bulb units did not show significant responses to tone presentation, nor modulation of odor-evoked activity by tone – suggesting a lack of olfactory-auditory convergence upstream from the olfactory tubercle. Thus, the tubercle presents itself as a source for direct multimodal convergence within an early stage of odor processing, and may serve as a seat for psychophysical interactions between smells and sounds.
Olfaction; Perception; Cross-modal; Olfactory bulb; Integration; Odor
Alzheimer’s disease often results in impaired olfactory perceptual acuity–a potential biomarker of the disorder. However, the utility of olfactory screens to serve as informative indicators of Alzheimer’s is precluded by a lack of knowledge regarding why the disease impacts olfaction. We addressed this question by assaying olfactory perception and amyloid β (Aβ) deposition throughout the olfactory system in mice which overexpress mutated form of the human amyloid β precursor protein. Such mice displayed progressive olfactory deficits which mimic those observed clinically some evident upon 3 months of age. Also at 3 months of age we observed non-fibrillar Aβ deposition within the olfactory bulb earlier than deposition within any other brain region. There was also a correlation between olfactory deficits and the spatial-temporal pattern of Aβ deposition. Therefore, non-fibrillar, versus fibrillar Aβ-related mechanisms likely contribute to early olfactory perceptual loss in Alzheimer’s disease. Further, these results present the odor cross-habituation test as a powerful behavioral assay which reflects Aβ deposition and thus may serve to monitor the efficacy of therapies aimed at reducing Aβ.
Amyloid-β; biomarker; piriform cortex; olfactory bulb; behavioral models; Neuropathology
We asked whether sex and adult estrogen exposure influence the detection thresholds for urinary odors used by mice to guide their social behaviors. Gonadectomized (GDX) male and female mice were trained on a two-choice food-motivated task to determine detection thresholds for male urinary odors. There was no significant sex difference in the detection of these odors by GDX subjects without hormone replacement. However, during treatment with estradiol benzoate (EB), GDX females, but not GDX males, showed an enhanced ability to detect these odors. To investigate a possible mechanism for this effect, we measured GDX females’ odor-sampling behavior (sniffing) by monitoring intranasal pressure transients during performance of the urinary odor detection task with and without EB treatment. Under both hormone conditions females decreased their sniffing frequency as the urinary odor concentration decreased, with this decrease being significantly greater while GDX females received EB. Thus, estradiol enhanced detection thresholds for male urine in a sex-specific manner, and this enhanced sensitivity in females was correlated with altered odor-sampling behavior.
olfaction; sex hormones; odor detection; sex differences; sniffing
Sniffing, a rhythmic inhalation and exhalation of air through the nose, is a behavior thought to play a critical role in shaping how odor information is represented and processed by the nervous system. Although the mouse has become a prominent model for studying olfaction, little is known about sniffing behavior in mice. Here, we characterized mouse sniffing behavior by measuring intranasal pressure transients in behaving mice. Sniffing was monitored during unstructured exploratory behavior and during performance of 3 commonly used olfactory paradigms: a habituation/dishabituation task, a sand digging–based discrimination task, and a nose poke–based discrimination task. We found that respiration frequencies in quiescent mice ranged from 3 to 5 Hz—higher than that reported for rats. During exploration, sniff frequency increased up to ∼12 Hz and was highly dynamic, with rapid changes in frequency, amplitude, and waveform. Sniffing behavior varied strongly between tasks as well as for different behavioral epochs of each task. For example, mice performing the digging-based task showed little increase in sniff frequency prior to digging, whereas mice performing a nose poke–based task showed robust increases. Mice showed large increases in sniff frequency prior to reward delivery in all tasks. Mice also showed increases in sniff frequency when nose poking in a nonodor-guided task. These results show that mouse sniffing behavior is highly dynamic, varies with behavioral context, and is strongly modulated by olfactory as well as nonolfactory events.
digging; discrimination; go/no-go; habituation; nose poke; respiration
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.
We asked whether odor discrimination abilities are sexually dimorphic in mice and, if so, whether the perinatal actions of estradiol contribute to these sex differences. The ability to discriminate different types of urinary odors was compared in male and female wild-type (WT) subjects and in mice with a homozygous-null mutation of the estrogen synthetic enzyme, aromatase (aromatase knockout; ArKO). Olfactory discrimination was assessed in WT and ArKO male and female mice after they were gonadectomized in adulthood and subsequently treated with estradiol benzoate. A liquid olfactometer was used to assess food-motivated olfactory discrimination capacity. All animals eventually learned to distinguish between urinary odors collected from gonadally intact males and estrous females; however, WT males as well as ArKO mice of both sexes learned this discrimination significantly more rapidly than WT females. Similar group differences were obtained when mice discriminated between urinary odors collected from gonadally intact vs. castrated males or between two non-social odorants, amyl and butyl acetate. When subjects had to discriminate volatile urinary odors from ovariectomized female mice treated with estradiol sequenced with progesterone versus estradiol alone, ArKO females quickly acquired the task whereas WT males and females as well as ArKO males failed to do so. These results demonstrated a strong sex dimorphism in olfactory discrimination ability, with WT males performing better than females. Furthermore, female ArKO mice showed an enhanced ability to discriminate very similar urinary odorants, perhaps due to an increased sensitivity of the main olfactory nervous system to adult estradiol treatment as a result of perinatal estrogen deprivation.
Estrogens; Sex differences; Olfaction; Odor discrimination; Learning