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J Neurosci. 2010 Feb 24;30(8):3013-21. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6003-09.2010.

Smelling sounds: olfactory-auditory sensory convergence in the olfactory tubercle.

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  • 1Emotional Brain Institute, Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Orangeburg, New York 10962, USA.


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 trilaminar 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 supraadditive 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.

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