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Nature. 2001 Nov 8;414(6860):173-9.

Genetic tracing reveals a stereotyped sensory map in the olfactory cortex.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


The olfactory system translates myriad chemical structures into diverse odour perceptions. To gain insight into how this is accomplished, we prepared mice that coexpressed a transneuronal tracer with only one of about 1,000 different odorant receptors. The tracer travelled from nasal neurons expressing that receptor to the olfactory bulb and then to the olfactory cortex, allowing visualization of cortical neurons that receive input from a particular odorant receptor. These studies revealed a stereotyped sensory map in the olfactory cortex in which signals from a particular receptor are targeted to specific clusters of neurons. Inputs from different receptors overlap spatially and could be combined in single neurons, potentially allowing for an integration of the components of an odorant's combinatorial receptor code. Signals from the same receptor are targeted to multiple olfactory cortical areas, permitting the parallel, and perhaps differential, processing of inputs from a single receptor before delivery to the neocortex and limbic system.

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