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Neuroscience. 2005;130(1):259-74.

Neural correlates of social odor recognition and the representation of individual distinctive social odors within entorhinal cortex and ventral subiculum.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cognitive Neurobiology, Department of Psychology, Boston University, Boston, MA 12115, USA. apetrulis@gsu.edu


Recognition of individual conspecifics is important for social behavior and requires the formation of memories for individually distinctive social signals. Individual recognition is often mediated by olfactory cues in mammals, especially nocturnal rodents such as golden hamsters. In hamsters, this form of recognition requires main olfactory system input to the lateral entorhinal cortex (LEnt). Here, we tested whether neurons in LEnt and the nearby ventral subiculum (VS) would show cellular correlates of this natural form of recognition memory. Two hundred ninety single neurons were recorded from both superficial (SE) and deep layers of LEnt (DE) and VS while male hamsters investigated volatile odorants from female vaginal secretions. Many neurons encoded differences between female's odors with many discriminating between odors from different individual females but not between different odor samples from the same female. Other neurons discriminated between odor samples from one female and generalized across collections from other females. LEnt and VS neurons showed enhanced or suppressed cellular activity during investigation of previously presented odors and in response to novel odors. A majority of SE neurons decreased firing to odor repetition and increased activity to novel odors. In contrast, DE neurons often showed suppressed activity in response to novel odors. Thus, neurons in LEnt and VS of male hamsters encode information that is critical for the identification and recognition of individual females by odor cues. This study reveals cellular mechanisms in LEnt and VS that may mediate a natural form of recognition memory in hamsters. These neuronal responses were similar to those observed in rats and monkeys during performance in standard recognition memory tasks. Consequently, the present data extend our understanding of the cellular basis for recognition memory and suggest that individual recognition requires similar neural mechanisms as those employed in laboratory tests of recognition memory.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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