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J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2004 Jan;190(1):21-38. Epub 2003 Nov 25.

Physiological and morphological characterization of honeybee olfactory neurons combining electrophysiology, calcium imaging and confocal microscopy.

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Institut für Biologie-Neurobiologie, Freie Universität Berlin, Königin Luise Str. 28-30, 14195 Berlin, Germany.


The insect antennal lobe is the first brain structure to process olfactory information. Like the vertebrate olfactory bulb the antennal lobe is substructured in olfactory glomeruli. In insects, glomeruli can be morphologically identified, and have characteristic olfactory response profiles. Local neurons interconnect glomeruli, and output (projection) neurons project to higher-order brain centres. The relationship between their elaborate morphology and their physiology is not understood. We recorded electrophysiologically from antennal lobe neurons, and iontophoretically injected a calcium-sensitive dye. We then measured their spatio-temporal calcium responses to a variety of odours. Finally, we confocally reconstructed the neurons, and identified the innervated glomeruli. An increase or decrease in spiking frequency corresponded to an intracellular calcium increase or decrease in the cell. While intracellular recordings generally lasted between 10 and 30 min, calcium imaging was stable for up to 2 h, allowing a more detailed physiological analysis. The responses indicate that heterogeneous local neurons get input in the glomerulus in which they branch most strongly. In many cases, the physiological response properties of the cells corresponded to the known response profile of the innervated glomerulus. In other words, the large variety of response profiles generally found when comparing antennal lobe neurons is reduced to a more predictable response profile when the innervated glomerulus is known.

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