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Physiol Behav. 1999 May;66(3):497-502.

Behavioral responses to aliphatic aldehydes can be predicted from known electrophysiological responses of mitral cells in the olfactory bulb.

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Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


For a better understanding of the encoding of odor quality in the olfactory system, it is critical to determine how electrophysiological responses to odorants are reflected in the behavioral responses to these odorants. In this article, we use a simple behavioral paradigm to show that the behavioral responses to similar odorants can be predicted from the electrophysiological responses of neurons in the olfactory bulb. Carbon chain length in aliphatic aldehydes has been used as a model for graded similarity among odorants. Recent electrophysiological experiments have shown that mitral cells in the rabbit olfactory bulb respond with similar response patterns to aliphatic aldehydes of similar chain length. On average, mitral cells responded with increased spiking activity to stimulation with two to three different aldehydes of neighboring chain length. We here show that the perception of these odorants can be predicted from the electrophysiological responses: rats that are conditioned to a given aldehyde generalize to aldehydes with one to two carbon differences in chain length from the conditioned aldehyde. When asked to discriminate between aldehydes of different chain lengths, rats learned to discriminate between any two odorants, but the rate of acquisition depended on the degree of similarity between the two odorants.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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